Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight: Hadley

Hadley Takes Steps to Enhance Commercial Growth

David Nixon says Hadley’s mix of open space, farmland, commerce, and homes has positioned it well for the future.

David Nixon says Hadley’s mix of open space, farmland, commerce, and homes has positioned it well for the future.

The town of Hadley has always strived to achieve a balance between open land, agricultural enterprise, and retail business. But over the past year, special efforts have been made to enhance commercial opportunity along the 13-mile stretch of Route 9 that runs through the town. The effort includes proactive measures, partnerships, and infrastructure improvements.

“We admire and respect people who are trying to establish and maintain a business. It’s a very difficult thing to do and takes a lot of sacrifice,” said Town Administrator David Nixon. He added that building lots are available on Route 9 and the town has been approached by a number of business owners who want to expand, particularly in the shopping-mall area of the roadway.

“There is a lot of new construction taking place,” he told BusinessWest, listing several expamples. “Texas Roadhouse is in the permitting process, a Starbucks store is under construction, and other businesses are being built or are under design. It’s good for the community and good for America, so we are doing whatever we can to support them and give owners the opportunity to flourish.”

A major milestone was reached several months ago when the state granted the town 12 new liquor licenses it applied for last fall. “The restaurant/hospitality trade is very important to our local economy, and last November, the town reached its quota of liquor licenses,” Nixon explained. “We knew there was a market for them, and we wanted to be able to provide opportunity for new restaurants and stores that would address the need for dining and entertainment. As a result of our petition, six new licenses for malt and wine and six for all-alcohol were granted.”

The licenses are for establishments on Route 9. One has already been applied for, and interest has been expressed in the remainder. “We expect more applications for them in the near future,” he said.

Hadley has also been proactive in helping 13 small businesses recover from losses suffered in a fire last October that leveled the strip mall at 206 Russell St. that housed them. “We developed a coalition to help the owners get back on their feet and find new locations to re-establish their businesses. It includes the Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Hampshire County, the town of Hadley, and our legislative delegation, as well as banks and charitable institutions,” Nixon said.

The coalition worked to make sure the owners received insurance money and any benefits available to them, he explained, adding that some of the businesses were quite successful and had been established by immigrants who realized the American dream through hard work and sweat equity put forth by their families.

The coalition also helped the owners create business plans and document their history so they could receive bank loans and apply for grant money. “Some have reopened, and others are still looking for the right location, but our work with them is ongoing,” Nixon said.

For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest looks at how this town strategically positioned between Northampton and Amherst is certainly the right place at the right time for commercial development.

Setting the Stage

Nixon said the town has also been proactive in taking steps to ensure that existing and potential business owners have the infrastructure they need to thrive. To that end, town officials partnered with the Mass. Department of Transportation to improve travel along Route 9 for vehicular traffic as well as for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Progress is being made, and new walking paths will be installed within the next year that will connect residential neighborhoods to shopping areas. In addition, a plan to widen and recondition the road is in the design stage and is expected to be complete next summer. It includes bicycle lanes, which will be enhanced by an upgrade of the Norwottuck Rail Trail by the Department of Conservation Resources.

Nixon said promoting bicycle use is part of the town’s ongoing strategy to reduce energy consumption, and officials have collaborated with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to realize that goal. The project includes a study paid for by a Community Innovation Challenge grant received last year, and the final report is expected in the near future.

“We also just received grant money to purchase three bicycle racks,” Nixon said. Two will be installed on municipal property along Route 9, and the third will be stationed at a local business chosen by the Select Board.

Town officials are also working with the state Department of Transportation to install safe pedestrian crossings along Route 9. Nixon said this is critical because the town common, which stretches a mile and a half and is the longest intact town common in New England, is being used for an increasing number of events.

Over the past year, these have included a farmer’s market, a 5K road race, and the town’s annual Asparagus Festival, which was held in early June. The festival kicked off for the first time last year at the Seven Sisters Market Bistro & Long Hollow Bison Farm at 270 Russell St., and this year, it was moved to the town common.

“It was extremely successful,” said Nixon. “People came from as far away as Brooklyn, and a story about it was published in Yankee magazine.”

But parking and walking to the common is problematic. People who attend such events often park in the Hopkins Academy lot or along Route 9, which means they have to cross the busy road on foot. “If they park on the south end of the road, they have to walk across four lanes of traffic,” Nixon explained, adding that the new crossings will be a boon to pedestrian safety.

The problem of aging water lines is also being addressed. “The lines we have are about 75 years old and will be replaced with higher-capacity ones and better materials,” he noted. The town plans to borrow money to finance the project, and officials are working with legislators to procure state funding to help pay for the improvement. Nixon said the preliminary cost for phase 1 is $400,000, and an additional $500,000 will be needed to complete phase 2.

A program to upgrade the town’s fire hydrants is also underway, and water valves are being tested by the Fire Department and Department of Public Works.

“We are also repairing our wastewater lines because we want to be sure there is enough capacity for our wastewater-treatment plan to handle an expansion,” he said. “It’s important to have this infrastructure in place and working properly so business owners know there is abundant water for their needs as well as enough to put out fires.”

Growth Patterns

Agriculture has always been an important part of Hadley’s economy, and the steps taken to bring new business to Route 9 and support firms already there have the potential to spur economic growth, since the town’s agricultural profile includes enterprises such as Carrs Cider, which is sold in package stores and restaurants; Valley Malt, which provides ingredients to make locally produced beer; and V-One Vodka, which can be purchased in Hadley and has plans to expand.

“Many Hadley restaurants support local agriculture, and we have six dairy farms and thousands of acres used to grow vegetables and fruit, such as strawberries, asparagus, corn, potatoes, squash, and pumpkins. So opportunities for new restaurants are linked to an opportunity for growth in both commercial and agricultural areas,” Nixon said.

He told BusinessWest the town is a leader in land preservation and has thousands of acres protected for agriculture and wildlife.

“But we also want to have the right kinds of commerce to provide people with employment as well as services they need, want, and enjoy,” he said in conclusion. “The commercial base helps to keep our taxes affordable, and the mix of open land, commerce, and residences in small villages and neighborhoods has provided Hadley with a very stable and vibrant community that is well-positioned to handle the challenges of the future.”

Hadley at a glance

Year Incorporated: 1661
Population: 5,520 (2010)
Area: 24.7 square miles
County: Hampden
Residential Tax Rate: $10.64
Commercial Tax Rate: $10.64
Median Household Income: $51,851 (2010)
Family Household Income: $61,897 (2010)
Type of government: Open Town Meeting, Board of Selectmen
Largest Employers: Super Stop & Shop, Evaluation Systems Group Pearson, Elaine Center at Hadley, Home Depot, Lowe’s Home Improvement
* Latest information available

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