West End Area-Wide Plan

The West End is an urban neighborhood in Chicopee Center in the southwestern corner of the city.  The neighborhood, which is roughly 190 acres in size, is bordered by the Connecticut River (west), the Chicopee River (north) and Center Street (south/southeast).  The neighborhood is physically divided by Interstate 391, which acts as a gateway to Chicopee Center and connects the neighborhood to the broader region.  According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the West End is called home by 1,351 Chicopee residents or two percent of Chicopee's total population.

Historically, the West End is one of the oldest industrial communities in the United States with the area's earliest factories constructed around 1820.  Around 1830, the Dwight Canal was completed which provided water power and barge access for the rapidly expanding textile, munitions and shoe manufacturers.  As the industrial base increased, a densely-built residential neighborhood grew toward the Center Street Corridor to serve the mill worker population.  This blue-collar neighborhood of Irish, French-Canadian and Polish immigrants thrived for over a century.

Beginning in the mid to late 1950's the West End has experienced an ongoing decline resulting from a number of economic challenges.  As a once thriving employment center, Chicopee's downtown has suffered from many changes including the loss of manufacturing businesses, the closing of the West Springfield Bridge and development of the Holyoke Mall north of Chicopee.  The West End has also not seen much investment in the form of new development in the last decade; nearly 90 percent of all housing units were built prior to 1940.  Resulting from this multi-decade long decline, aging facilities and suburban competition, the neighborhood's residents have been left searching for environmental and economic alternatives. 

The West End district contains a high concentration of known and suspected Brownfields.  The neighborhood is home to two percent of the City's population however it contains about 5.4 percent of all sites in Chicopee reported under the Commonwealth's voluntary clean-up program.  Moreover, parcels containing known Brownfields cover at least 20-25 percent of the neighborhood's land area, presenting a tremendous challenge and opportunity for revitalization efforts.

The following map locates each of the fifteen known and/or suspected Brownfields that have been studied as part of the Area-wide Planning process.  Property summary sheets can be viewed by clicking on the name of the property or by visiting the West End Documents webpage.    

1) Cabotville Mill Complex, 165 Front Street
2) Center Street Parking Lot, Center Street
3) Chicopee Water Department, 27 Tremont Street
4) City Frontage, Front Street between Depot Street and Davitt Bridge
5) City Property (Former Hampden Steam Plant), Lower Depot Street
6) Collegian Court, 89 Park Street
7) Delta Park, Lower Depot Street
8) Former Freemason's Lodge, 81 Center Street
9) Former Lyman Company, 60 Depot Street
10) Former Mathis Oldsmobile, 67 Exchange Street
11) Former Mobile Service Station, 229 Center Street
12) Former Racing Oil, 181 Center Street
13) Former Valley Opportunity Council (VOC) building, 152 Center Street
14) Front Street, 101 Front Street
15) Riverfront Property, Exchange Street

The Area-Wide Plan (AWP)
The West End Brownfields AWP seeks to reinvigorate and spark reinvestment in the West End by mitigating local environmental conditions at brownfields and re-branding the area as an attractive, green neighborhood where people can live, work, learn and play.  Through realistic strategies and market-driven initiatives, it particularly aims to assess, clean up and return key West End Brownfields to productive use over the next three to five years.  An overall market assessment identifies potential demand for industrial/commercial space and rental housing units, while identifying niche market commercial uses as well as appropriate target segments for mill building residences.  The plan also addresses limitations in the neighborhood's infrastructure and recommends public improvements that will facilitate private property redevelopment in the West End.

- Advance the assessment, cleanup and redevelopment of Brownfields;
- Improve the environment and human health;
- Provide realistic, market-based options for reuse/redevelopment initiatives;
- Support Brownfield funds and remediation programs;
- Develop a phased implementation strategy with linked steps;
- Examine infrastructure capacities and recommend improvements; and
- Create criteria and measures for success

The West End Vision calls for the creation of a distinctive, attractive, hip, healthy, affordable and safe downtown neighborhood and is based on market findings, public input, existing conditions and successful case studies of other Brownfields redevelopments across the Commonwealth. 

The Cabotville Mill Complex and environs along Front Street are the priority Brownfield redevelopment sites and they are central to the phased Implementation Plan.  Progress on redevelopment of Cabotville would encourage redevelopment of other Brownfields with longer-term market potential. 

Noted as part of the plan, the revitalization of older urban centers should encompass a scale and development type that is distinctive from residential and commercial spaces available in suburban and rural locations within the area's larger geographic region.  Older urban centers appeal to businesses and residents who desire an environment that offers distinctive buildings and spaces, walkable streets, density and amenities that cannot be replicated in other city neighborhoods or suburban areas, all qualities the West End exhibits.

Concept Plan
Based on the above vision, the project team developed concepts for the West End that focus on five primary areas: the Mill Properties, Delta Park/Former Hampden Steam Plant, the Riverfront, Residential and the Gateway.  Focusing efforts on these key areas will have significant synergistic effects on the redevelopment potential of other properties in the West End.

The Concept Plan reactivates the neighborhood through the following key initiatives: 

- Redevelopment of the Cabotville and Lyman Mill Properties - These structures are 
  currently underutilized and therefore detract from the neighborhood's appeal.  The City 
  should primarily focus its efforts on supporting or facilitating the redevelopment of the
  Cabotville Mill Complex in the near term based on the following traits:
          o Most prominent Brownfield site in the West End
          o Located near valuable resources including the canal
          o Architecturally and historically significant
          o Will likely stimulate reinvestment at the former Lyman Mill properties if redeveloped
          o Can accommodate a large concentration of businesses and residents, which will
             generate further reinvestment in the West End.

- Restore Environmental Health - The urban environment should be restored to conditions 
  that are considered healthy for walking, biking, working and recreating. 

- Create Public Amenities - There are opportunities to improve the West End through the 
  creation of new public amenities, particularly a path and park along the canal.  Such a 
  path could connect the Connecticut Riverwalk and Bikeway Project to the Chicopee Canal 
  and RiverWalk.  A new path and park along the canal would increase the amount of open 
  space in the West End and draw people to the neighborhood. 

- Improve Infrastructure - To support the redevelopment of mill buildings and encourage 
  neighborhood revitalization, several infrastructure improvements are necessary.  These 
  include a water line replacement and possible road widening. 

- Change Circulation - Several of the roadways in the West End only allow one-way traffic, 
  which has anecdotally hampered West End businesses.  Converting them into two-way streets 
  would support businesses by enhancing their visibility and accessibility.  It would also help to 
  create a stronger link between the West End - the targeted Brownfield sites - and the 
  regional transportation system.  

Market Overview
FXM Associates prepared Technical Memorandum early in the planning process to assess key population, business and employment characteristics and trends affecting economic development potential in the City of Chicopee.  Key findings include the following: 

- Businesses: There are an estimated 153 business establishments in the West
  End, accounting for more than 1,100 employees and nearly $119 million in annual business

- Manufacturing: There are approximately 12 manufacturers in the West End, 12 percent of
  all manufacturing establishments in the City. 

- Retail: The retail sector is the least represented industry group in the West End,
  accounting for less than four percent of all citywide retail jobs and business sales.

- Employment: The West End has a lower percentage of employed residents (53 percent)
  than the City, Hampden County and Massachusetts.  Additionally, the neighborhood has a
  higher percentage of blue collar workers (43 percent). 

FXM also conducted Residential and Commercial Market Analyses as part of the AWP as summarized in the Technical Memorandum.  Key findings include the following:

- Rental Housing: The residential market assessment targeted households under age 35
  and over age 55 (targeting young adults, graduate students, empty nesters, retirees and
  temporary skilled workers at nearby healthcare, educational and technical centers).  In other
  comparable urban areas, these market segments have been found to be the most likely
  to find urban rental housing attractive.  

- Office Space: The City of Chicopee overall currently holds about five percent of the
  Chicopee-Holyoke-Springfield regional office space inventory.  Net absorption of 31,000
  square feet is expected in the City of the next five years.  To increase the amount of Office
  Space in the West End would require extraordinary measures to increase visibility within the
  regional market and development of competitive product and price offerings for conventional
  and/or niche office space users.  

- Industrial/Warehouse Space: There is steady, increasing demand for industrial space in
  the Chicopee-Holyoke-Springfield region and beyond, which could afford development
  opportunities in Chicopee.  Based on the region's projected net absorption of 1,600,000
  square feet of industrial space, over the next five years, Chicopee would have a
  net absorption of 435,000 square feet or approximately 90,000 square feet annually.  

- Retail Space: Based on analysis of historical and projected trends in the total inventory of
  retail space, vacancies rates, and planned and proposed developments, no net additions to
  the current inventory of retail space in the Chicopee-Holyoke-Springfield regional market
  are expected over the next several years.  However, a Retail Opportunity/Gap Analysis
  reveals potential in specific retail categories that have the potential to ‘capture' more
  household expenditures within the market areas.  These categories include: computer &
  software sales, hardware stores, office supplies & stationary, gift & novelties, limited-service
  and specialty restaurants.  

The overall goal for the West End Brownfields Plan is to stir excitement for broader revitalization by enabling market-based change in the most significant properties - especially the Cabotville Mill Complex - while providing improvements for public accessibility, general cleanup of City properties and streets, and cooperative outreach to attract new commercial tenants. 

A series of initial, short-term steps should be taken to promote the overall vision and advance the goals of the Implementation Plan.  These steps include advancing the primary redevelopment initiative, preliminary assessments, design, targeted demolition and construction and general cleanup of public and private properties.  The Implementation Matrix provides a summary of the key actions to advance the AWP's goals while defining potential resources available to support the brownfields reuse process.  Key actions include the following:

First Steps:
     - Advance Cabotville Mill Phase I Reuse Project
     - Improve water service to the Mill Complex
     - Phase I Canalway - improving city-owned property between the canal and Front Street
     - Complete Brownfield Assessments
     - Develop Marketing Partnerships
     - Promote Gateway Redevelopment
     - Complete Temporary Brownfield Improvements and Cleanup

Key Mid-Term Projects
     - Continue design and implementation of the Canalway project
     - Address former Hampden Steam Plant and Delta Park Properties
     - Improve Water Department Property
     - Enhance Riverfront Access
     - Consider creation of a Business Improvement District
     - Complete Building and Sanitary Code Review
     - Review Land Use and Zoning Regulations 

Please visit the West End Area-Wide Docs Webpage to view and/or down Planning Materials.  

"...real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant..."

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated the Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program.  The City of Chicopee, in collaboration with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) (http://www.pvpc.org/brownfields/Chicopee_West_End.html) submitted a proposal to the EPA for the City's West End Neighborhood.  The City and PVPC's proposal was selected, along with proposals from 22 other communities for funding during this initial pilot phase.  

According to the EPA's Brownfields webpage (http://epa.gov/brownfields/areawide_grants.htm), "EPA is providing assistance to 23 communities to facilitate community involvement in developing an area-wide plan for brownfields assessment, cleanup and subsequent reuse. The pilot program recipients will each receive up to approximately $175,000 in grant funding and/or direct technical assistance from the Agency..."

EPA is piloting this area-wide planning approach to community brownfield challenges, which recognizes that revitalization of the area surrounding the brownfield site(s) is critical to the successful reuse of the property as assessment, cleanup and redevelopment of an individual site. The area-wide planning approach will enhance EPA's core brownfields assistance programs by encouraging continued meaningful involvement in a locally-driven planning process that will result in a strategy for making brownfields site assessment, cleanup and/or redevelopment decisions for the future. The pilot program will help further community-based partnership efforts within underserved or economically disadvantaged neighborhoods by confronting local environmental and public health challenges related to brownfields, while creating a planning framework to advance economic development and job creation."