Redevelopment Of Former Mill Site Begins

Apr 8, 2013

The redevelopment has begun of a once badly polluted former textile mill in Chicopee Massachusetts. A top Environmental Protection Agency official warned on Monday that federal budget cuts threaten future brownfields cleanup efforts in the region. 

A new $8 million senior center is the first construction project at the former Facemate textile mill site along the Chicopee River
Credit WAMC

An $8 million  senior center is being constructed on land along the Chicopee River that was originally developed during the early 1800s to manufacture textiles.  A groundbreaking , attended by more than  100 people, culminated a decade long cleanup project that officials described as a legal and environmental quagmire.

The New England Regional Director of the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Curt Spalding said it took a lot of energy on the part of  local and state officials to pull it off.

The city moved to take ownership of the former Facemate property, which had been abandoned in 2003.  In addition to derelict buildings, the 20- acre site had asbestos contaminated soil, buried debris, underground fuel tanks, and other industrial pollutants.

Officials estimated that $18 million  was spent on the project, with funding coming primarily from EPA, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and  MassDevelopment.

Spalding warned that across- the- board federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, threaten future funding for brownfields cleanup projects.

Spalding said approximately $17 million was spent by the EPA on brownfields projects in New England last year.

Chicopee would like additional funding to clean up and demolish  a former Uniroyal tire factory that is adjacent to the former Facemate property.  The goal is to create a 40 - acre site for future development, according to Carl Dietz, Chicopee’s Director of Community Development.

Part of the former Uniroyal tire factory complex in Chicopee, MA
Credit WAMC

Three acre parcels on either side of the senior center site are available now for development, and Dietz said the city is soliciting bids.

Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette said the 21,000 square foot senior center, which should be finished in a year is a legacy to the people who labored in the old factories along the river, supported families and built  strong neighborhoods.

Building senior centers is now replacing building schools as priorities in many Massachusetts communities.  21 percent of the state’s population is now age 60 and over, an increase of  16 percent since 2000 , according to census data.