Changes coming to Walnut Street Extension

2/2/2017 | Chris Goudreau

Category: February 2017

Conceptual designs of the Walnut Street Extension Area improvement project.
Reminder Publications submitted photo

Four projects are in the works in Agawam to bring new vibrancy to the Walnut Street Extension Area.

These projects include a streetscape redesign, the redevelopment of the former Games & Lanes site, the reconstruction of the Morgan-Sullivan Bridge, and the development of the now demolished Agawam Motor Lodge.

Games & Lanes

The cleanup of chemical contaminants at the former Games & Lanes property at 350 Walnut St. Extension is slated to be finished this spring. After the cleanup is wrapped up, the site would be sold and potentially redeveloped.

Games & Lanes has stood decrepit and weathered by time and inactivity for 17 years due to contamination, which were most likely a byproduct of the former Standard Uniform Company that occupied the building before it was known as Games &?Lanes.

David Peter of Site Redevelopment Technologies, which owns the property and is working to complete cleanups, sent a letter to Mayor Richard Cohen and the City Council on Jan. 18 updating the elected officials on the current status of the remediation work.

“Lab tests of selected wells for dissolved iron, manganese, nitrate, nitrite, sulfate and sulfide were completed for the determination of subsurface conditions,” Peter stated in the letter. “New borings have been completed inside the building as well as outside the building for soil chemical testing and soil gas monitoring. These results should be available soon and will be part of the final closure report for the property pursuant to [the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)] regulations.”

He continued, “A new [monitoring] well has been installed to further delineate the former chemical plume and will yield results soon on the level of contaminants. These will be reported in the next update and should reveal any lateral movement of the solvents and hopefully indicate levels within compliance. Next month, a series of groundwater samples will be tested to complete the quarterly, required analyses, and allow a completed report to be compiled on the status of the cleanup.”

Cohen said he spoke with Peter, who told him that he believes DEP would make a final determination about the property in February.

Streetscape Improvements

The city’s streetscape redesign and improvement project for the Walnut Street Extension Area, which would attempt to create a walkable pedestrian friendly town center, has been in the works for the past several years, but Cohen said the city hopes to go out to bid for the project in February and begin construction in March or April.

It would include an extension to the existing sidewalk of the eastern portion of the street, dedicated bike and pedestrian paths, greenery improvements to make the area more aesthetically pleasing for visitors, and traffic-calming measures such as curb bump outs to slow down traffic.

The project is anticipated to cost $3 to $4 million, but a definitive estimate has yet to be completed. Additionally, the city could receive a $1 million grant from the MassWorks program for the project if it is approved.

Cohen said the cleanup of Games & Lanes is an “instrumental piece” in starting the Walnut Street Extension Area project.

“I’m very confident that something will happen at Games & Lanes,” Cohen said.

The Morgan-Sullivan Bridge project

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) presented early designs and plans for the $23 million Morgan-Sullivan bridge reconstruction project in late August 2016. The project is an effort that involves Agawam and its neighbor West Springfield.

In addition to the bridge, three intersections would be reconstructed, one in West Springfield and two in Agawam. Landscape and lighting improvements would be features of the project.

The advertising date to hire a construction company is May 6, 2017 and it would take potentially three constructions seasons to complete. The federal government is funding 80 percent of the project, while the state is paying for the remaining 20 percent.

Cohen said MassDOT is preparing to host a 75 percent design completion public hearing in the near future. A definitive date has yet to be set.

The first public hearing in August 2015 entailed a presentation of 25 percent design completion of the project, he noted.

“It’s moving along rapidly,” Cohen added. “We are working on the right of ways that the town has to take with our Law Department and engineering.”

Cohen said he and Agawam officials are working alongside West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt and his departments as well MassDOT to help the project move along.

“We’re very excited about this long awaited project that will make the entrance of our community easier, more pleasing design wise,” Cohen said. “Both for efficiency and aesthetic purposes it’s going to look really nice. It’ll be the first bridge of its kind with elevated bike paths and pedestrian paths that will go into West Springfield [and] Agawam … It will also go down Main Street. It will also go down Suffield Street and also loop down Springfield Street to the Walnut Street Extension Area.”

The Agawam Motor Lodge 

The Agawam Motor Lodge, more commonly known as the “Agawam Motel,” which was located at 23 Suffield St., was a longtime nuisance property that was demolished on May 12 to the joy of Cohen, who stated it was “a happy day for Agawam” when interviewed during the demolition of the building.

From Jan. 1 to June 30, 2015 there were a total of 184 police responses, including 22 arrests and 70 responses from the Fire Department at the location, which was frequently used as a lodging facility for local area homeless.

Agawam filed an emergency petition in August 2015 due to complaints that surface in June of that year regarding the health and safety of the people living at the motel. Former residents of a condemned building in Springfield, who were relocated to rooms at the motor lodge, raised issues with the building. Some of the top concerns included bedbugs and a lack of compliance with fire and health codes.

The petition was to reclassify the parcel as R-2 Non Transient Lodging, in which an automatic sprinkler system would have been required in the building. Sangyeon and Chulho Yoo, the former owners, as well as 25 occupants of the building were named as defendants. Some residents of the motel had lived there for more than 20 years.

The Springfield-based Colvest Group Company purchased the property in February 2016 and demolished it with plans to redevelop the property. The company also purchased and demolished a former gas station next door to the motor lodge prior to purchasing the motel.

Cohen said he’s spoken with Frank Colaccino, principal of the Colvest Group, who told him he does not rush redevelopment projects and there is no definitive timetable for redevelopment of the two parcels.  

“He will maintain it and keep it very nice, but he likes to make sure that something that goes in there will benefit Agawam and also be something to be proud of,” Cohen said.

He added no definitive prospects for redevelopment are planned at this time, but the Colvest Group has been advertising the property.

“When he knows he will certainly discuss it with us,” Cohen said. “He’s excellent to work with because he keeps us in the loop.”

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