Springtime in Holyoke

By Ben Forman

Last Friday was one of those gorgeous spring days meant for venturing out. Instead of following my normal routine (getting on the T and riding east), I got into the car and drove west on the turnpike to the historic city of Holyoke.

The visitor’s center at Heritage State Park was full of residents and city leaders gathered for a full day forum on revitalization strategies, an event hosted by the Roosevelt Institute at Mt. Holyoke College and a new community organization, Citizens for the Revitalization and Urban Success of Holyoke (CRUSH).

I participated in a panel with Kelly Aiken from the Hampden County Regional Employment Board, Adam Baacke from the City of Lowell, Tom Deller from the Providence Economic Development Partnership, and Tim McGourthy from the City of Worcester.  

The panel was remarkably consistent with its message, emphasizing the need for cities to have strong civic leaders, who embrace robust planning efforts, and unify the community behind the goals and objectives laid out in those plans.

Much of the discussion that followed focused on whether Gateway Cities have the capacity to craft plans and the governance structures to unite behind a plan.

This conversation is well-timed for Holyoke. A flurry of planning activity is underway to leverage investment in a pioneering supercomputing center.

Holyoke’s new mayor, Elaine Pluta, along with many city officials, devoted the full day to the event. Her young administration along with the new citizens group CRUSH have enormous opportunity along with lessons from Lowell, Providence, Worcester and a number of other cities referenced during the day to guide them.

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