City Space and the future Easthampton

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As a member of Easthampton’s City Council for 25 years, I begin this term with optimism for the future of Easthampton and its economic recovery from this pandemic nightmare.

They have made Easthampton one of the most desirable cities to live in and a destination city. But this pandemic has greatly affected our small businesses and restaurants with many seeing low volume and increased costs. We have many vacant store fronts.

I have recently retired as the production manager and designer for Pioneer Valley Ballet’s “Nutcracker.” It happens yearly on one weekend. I marveled how those performances poured hundreds of patrons into Northampton’s restaurants and businesses. That one weekend has a profound economic benefit to Northampton. And there are many performances at the Academy of Music that do the same. Why not in Easthampton?

However, an opportunity is right in front of us that would greatly help Easthampton grow and go a long way toward saving our restaurants and businesses. If we all support City Space’s fundraising to renovate Old Town Hall’s second floor into a beautiful and vibrant mutliuse performance space, it will add hundreds of patrons each week to our businesses. If we build it, they will come! I consider this project to have the most significant impact on Easthampton’s economic development and recovery in many years. It can be ready this year with our help.

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  • Modified: 1/23/2022 8:04:05 PM

  • I’ve also chaired the Community Preservation Act Committee for the last few terms, and we have supported wonderful projects over the years which have greatly improved the quality of life for Easthampton’s residents. These projects include: The rail trail, boardwalk, new parks, new trails, new recreational facilities, open space preservation and some but not enough new affordable housing.

City Space, a group of dedicated volunteers, is the nonprofit that runs the Old Town Hall. With a donation of $3 million from the CPA Committee, which has seeded other donations, City Space is close to achieving its goal to begin construction. With many other donations and grants, including a $750,000 pending bond from the state, they hope to go out to bid in the fall of 2022. They are within $800,000 of their goal to begin construction.

Many local business and banks have already contributed as well as individuals. Even a small donation, multiplied by hundreds can and will close this gap. Also, a few letters to our state representatives would help as we need the release of that bond and perhaps some American Rescue Plan Act funds. I noted that the Victory Theater in Holyoke recently was awarded $250,000 ARPA funds.

I realize this is a major and costly project totaling close to $6.9 million. When the CPA committee looked at it for CPA funding, we noted that there are other municipalities that also have contributed even larger amounts of CPA funds for the same type of renovation and performance use. Old town hall has already been renovated on its first floor with a restored lobby and new front doors that match original architecture. It is the most important historical landmark in our city. This second-floor renovation will make the building complete and totally accessible with an elevator planned. City Space has begun the first phase of construction beginning to replace old infrastructure, HVAC, heating and electrical that would be necessary for the second floor as well as the entire building.

I can only imagine what weekly music concerts, community theater, a jazz festival, local and national talent acts, even senior night dancing, will do for this city and its empty storefronts and struggling restaurants. Let’s make this happen. To donate go to: cityspaceeasthamtpon.org/donate/

We can do this Easthampton. Our future is in your hands. Dan Rist is a member of the Easthampton Council and chairs the Finance and CPA committees.