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MassLive, Jim Kinney

Mental Health Association secures $6.5 million in financing for new Chicopee headquarters

January 24, 2024

CHICOPEE – The Mental Health Association has secured $6.5 million in financing through MassDevelopment to complete the purchase of a new headquarters at the former MassMutual Learning Center in Chicopee.

MassDevelopment, the state’s development finance agency and land bank, issued a tax-exempt bond, which Florence Bank purchased, helping the nonprofit MHA to borrow at a lower interest rate, MassDevelopment said Wednesday.

Mental Health Association Inc. said in September it planned to pay $5.75 million for the MassMutual Learning and Conference Center. It is renovating the 78,000-square-foot building at 350 Memorial Drive. MHA plans to move in March.

Work began in November, according to MassDevelopment, and will wrap up next month.

Renovations include reconfiguration of interior walls, office construction, HVAC and sprinkler system updates and added reception area security. The project also involves painting, new flooring and information systems improvements.

The MassMutual Conference Center interior. (Jeanette DeForge/Republican staff)

MHA intends to use the conference center’s commercial kitchen for vocational training and life-skills development programs.

It had outgrown its headquarters in Springfield.

Matt Garrity, Florence Bank’s president and CEO, said it was happy to participate in a way that helps the nonprofit obtain a new headquarters.

“Mental Health Association is a longtime and highly valued customer who plays a pivotal role in providing behavioral health services in the communities we serve,” Garrity said in a statement.

The facility was built in 1990 as the Charles River West Psychiatric Hospital.

MassMutual bought the property for $3.2 million from the Picknelly family’s Monarch Enterprises in 1999, according to deed records. The insurer used it to host meetings and training for its employees and agents, while allowing community groups to use its banquet hall and commercial kitchens.

MassMutual had been trying to sell the building since at least 2017, saying it no longer had use for it.

For a time, Chicopee considered buying it for a new school headquarters and possible home for a preschool and for its programs for 18- to 22-year-olds with disabilities.

But the City Council turned down the plan in March 2023.