Parsons Paper Site to be Remediated, Redeveloped
HOLYOKE — On March 14, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse was joined by city and state officials to mark the official start of the demolition and cleanup of the former Parsons Paper in preparation for the expansion of Holyoke manufacturer Aegis Energy Services.
The announcement capped a multi-year effort to remediate the site and make it ready for development. The expansion of Aegis Energy Services will entail a private investment of approximately $7 million, the retention of 65 job,s and the creation of at least 30 new jobs, as well as the creation of up to 4 megawatts of renewable energy, making it the city’s largest manufacturing expansion in years.
“This is a significant milestone in our city’s revitalization that should be celebrated and praised. Redevelopment of the Parsons site has been an extremely difficult challenge, bringing with it significant legal, environmental, and financial constraints that have impeded progress for years,” Morse said. “The staff in the Office of Planning and Economic Development and the Law Department should be applauded for their efforts as they’ve worked diligently with the Redevelopment Authority and a cross-collaboration of public and private partners to make this project a reality. I’d be remiss if I did not offer my sincere appreciation to Lee Vardakas of Aegis Energy for his commitment to Holyoke; we are fortunate to have this innovative company stay and grow in our city, and I thank him for his investments and contributions.”
Located at 84 Sargeant St. between the first and second level canals, the 4.7-acre Parsons Paper site has been unused and vacant since 2004. In 2008, a fire significantly destroyed a majority of the structures, and the city officially foreclosed on the property and took ownership in 2012 for failure to pay taxes. In 2014, the Redevelopment Authority engaged Tighe & Bond to undertake environmental assessments, specifications for demolition and cleanup, and project permitting to prepare the site for reuse.
Many sources of funds are being used to make the demolition and cleanup phase of the project possible and have been amassed through the HRA, including $250,000 in funds from an agreement with Eversource Energy (formerly Northeast Utilities) as part of a mitigation payment associated with cleanup of contaminants in the Connecticut River; $2 million from the state Brownfield Fund through MassDevelopment; $1 million in capital investment by Holyoke Gas & Electric, which secures an easement on the site for potentially 2.5 MW of hydroelectric generation; and a $400,000 capital loan from the Holyoke Economic Development and Industrial Corp., to be paid from the sale proceeds of the land to Aegis Energy Services. The city also provided its most aggressive tax-incentive schedule in its history: a 100% property-tax exemption for 10 years.
“This is an incredibly challenging site and a costly endeavor, one that would have been very difficult for the city to do by itself,” said Marcos Marrero, director of Planning & Economic Development for the city, as well as executive director for the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority. “Consequently, the financing framework for this project is probably the most complex that Holyoke has seen in decades. The implications a year from now will be significant: blight reduction, building reuse, job creation, expansion of manufacturing, more renewable energy, and improved property values in the neighborhood.”
Added MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones, “cleaning up and redeveloping this highly visible site in downtown Holyoke will positively impact surrounding businesses, residences, and the city’s innovation district. This project illustrates the vital role the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund plays in transforming parcels around the Commonwealth, and I applaud Holyoke for its commitment to this property.”
The contractor for the work is McConnell Enterprises Inc., which will begin work on the site immediately in order to take advantage of the regularly scheduled canal draw-down on Maech 22-24. Demolition and cleanup is projected to be completed by August, after which the site will be taken over for redevelopment by Aegis Energy Services, rehabilitating one 40,000-square-foot building — a 200% expansion of the company’s square footage — and adding at least 30 new jobs, an approximate 50% growth in the company’s employment.