From the Editor's Desk: Revitalizing downtown isn't an either/or proposition

3/9/2017 | Chris Maza

Category: March

The Cabotville Mills are located in the West End Housing Development Zone.
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza

When considering economic development and area revitalization, local government is often confronted with a chicken and egg quandary. In many areas of our cities, Chicopee included, there are portions that are in need of significant investment to reenergize them.

But with that comes a dilemma. Some would argue that without commerce, you couldn’t build a positive residential trend, while others might insist it would be difficult to attract businesses to an area in which the housing prospects are dim.

So what’s the right answer?

Chicopee officials appear to think they have the solution and it’s not an either/or proposition. Rather, the city is taking all-encompassing approach to reviving one of the more historic areas of the community.

Both commercial and residential development is vital to the success of that downtown corridor, but addressing them simultaneously can be a challenge not only from a planning standpoint, but especially a financial one. With that in mind, the approach of incorporating a business assistance program through the Community Development Block Grant in the same area in which the city is encouraging new market rate housing initiatives would appear to be a brilliant use of the federal funding.

Here’s hoping that folks take advantage of these initiatives and help improve an area of fundamental importance to the success of the city.


I’m the very definition of a Heinz 57 American. My heritage is fairly far reaching. Some Spanish here, some French Canadian here, a dash of German on this side, even a little Irish in there somewhere. It’s something I’m aware of, but never something I have ever felt was a defining characteristic of who I am.

With that in mind, St. Patrick’s Day was always one of those holidays that I never really understood and never really participated in. I went to a parade here or there. I might have gone to a bar for a Guinness with some friends. I rarely ever even wore green because it wasn’t part of my wardrobe and I wasn’t going to buy an article of clothing for the sake of one day that at most was something I found oddly fascinating.

Then I met my wife, Eileen who is Irish through and through. Suddenly I was thrust into a life in which St. Patrick’s Day was a holiday bigger than Christmas.

For the Irish, it’s much more than my preconceived notions, Eileen would say, usually garnering a sarcastic or skeptical response. My wife would recount tales of living on the parade route in Holyoke and pressing faces against the glass of the family’s front picture window as a child to get a look at the food vendors and it was one of the rare times when a truck full of porta-potties was spurred excitement.

My first “real” Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade experience was eye opening. That day three things were emphasized more than anything else – family, friends and community. It was something that I think everyone, regardless of background, can appreciate.

In a time in which there seems to be so much unrest, I hope we can all take step back and contemplate what those three things – family, friends, and community – mean to us and how we can strengthen our bond with all three.

As an “adopted” Irish son, I wish you all lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!

Share this: