Chicopee Officials Predict New Commercial, Industrial Development in Coming Year

February 14, 2010 : The Republican, by Pamela Metaxas

CHICOPEE – City officials are predicting new commercial and industrial developments on several fronts in 2010 with the most dramatic expected to be the long-awaited demolition of the former Uniroyal-Facemate industrial complex.

Launched in January, the demolition is the first of several anticipated moves in coming years at the maze of vacant, deteriorated buildings.

“This will be one of the largest and most important projects,” said Mayor Michael D. Bissonnette.

In October, the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency presented the city with a $100,000 Brownfields grant, paving the way for an additional $2 million development grant to help with the project. The quasi-public agency plans to demolish 16 buildings; GZA Geo Environmental, of Norwood, is removing and disposing of asbestos and demolition debris.

“Clearly, Uniroyal is a project that is going to be with us for a long time,” said community development director Carl F. Dietz. “By the end of summer, we expect to have the planning process completed for the second phase of demolition which may include some of the collapsed buildings on the Facemate property.”

A new senior center for the city is expected to be constructed on land near the old Uniroyal property, and design for that project is expected this year also, according to Dietz.

Also on the agenda for this year are the construction of the estimated $33 million Chicopee Crossing project on Memorial Drive; it is to include a Residence Inn by Marriott, a bank, two restaurants and retail and office space on a 12-acre parcel next to the Days Inn.

Ground-breaking had been delayed pending a decision from the state Highway Department on a $2.73 million grant for road improvements tied to the project from Fuller Road to the Massachusetts Turnpike and Fuller Road connector, according to the mayor.

St. Stanislaus Church, meanwhile, is trying to lease 26 acres it owns on Memorial Drive which is part of the church's 125-acre cemetery. And, the city is hoping there will be movement for development at the site of the former International House of Pancakes property on Memorial Drive.

Chicopee has had its share of good news over the past several months, including October's announcement by biofuels firm Qteros for development of a $3.2 million pilot plant to convert plant matter to ethanol. It is to be located on land near Westover Air Reserve Base and is expected to grow into a manufacturing plant for Qteros.

The city plans to acquire more than 30 acres of surplus military land and 133 associated housing units from the U.S. Navy, and a major development is expected for that property, according to the mayor.

Additional development in 2010 is expected with the sale of 57 acres by the city to Westover Metropolitan Development Corp. for $1.45 million.

The corporation plans to add acreage to its existing land holdings to create Air Park South, a 110-acre industrial park which could bring more than 1,000 jobs and $1 million annually in tax revenues.

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