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The Republican, by Jim Kinney

Uniroyal Site Plan Under Way

February 12, 2010

CHICOPEE – The city hopes to have a comprehensive plan to redevelop the 65 acre Uniroyal/Facemate industrial site in hand by June.

City officials announced Thursday that an agreement has been made with MassDevelopment, the state’s quasi-public finance and development authority, to do a $250,000 study of the property on Oak and West Main streets.

The announcement followed a regular monthly meeting of the city’s Uniroyal Task Force at the Chicopee Public Library.

Once in hand, the study will offer a comprehensive look at all of the environmental problems on the site, what buildings can be saved, and what else could be built there. It is will also examine whether this location would be the place for the city’s planned new senior center.

The work will be completed by Vanesse Hangen Brustlin, of Watertown, RKG Associates, of Dover, N.H., and Tighe and Bond, of Westfield.

MassDevelopment has already provided Chicopee with up to $2 million in remediation funding. But the cost of cleaning up the old industrial property is estimated at $20 million.

“And that’s just a back-of-the-envelope calculation,” Chicopee Mayor Michael D. Bissonnette said. “This study will give us a much better idea of the real cost.”

He said he’ll be able to use the report as a tool to bring in more funding from the state and federal governments and from other sources.

“And hopefully we can cobble together the resources to do the demolition,” Bissonnette said.

Thomas J. Haberlin, economic development director for the city, said he already knows how many buildings will fit on the property from pervious work done at the site.

“We need to go beyond that and look at a grander vision,” Haberlin said. “We know that this site was where a lot of people worked.”

Uniroyal closed in 1981 and now most, if not all, the buildings are probably too dilapidated to save, said Joseph C. Viamari, Chicopee building commissioner.

“It’s the cancer on the city,” Viamari said.

Work tearing down buildings 1 through 6 at the site should be completed by March. Bissonnette said the city received a $1.2 million federal grant for the demolition, but the lowest bid came in at about $700,000. The money saved will pay for the $250,000 MassDevelopment study.

Bissonnette said there will be at least three public meeting on plans for the site, but that they have yet to be scheduled.

Progress will be slow, though. Bissonnette has a list of 17 state and federal agencies that are already involved in the project.

Haberlin said it might take five years for the real-estate market to heat up to the point where any redevelopement is commercially viable.

© Copyright 2010 The Republican.