I recently moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts from the Boston area to start a new job as a transit analyst. I went to school in Amherst, but I’ve been shocked to discover that I spent virtually no time in Hampden County (Springfield, Chicopee, Holyoke, Westfield). Now that I’m living in Holyoke, I’m realizing what a crying shame that was.
Holyoke, also known as The Paper City, is like a lot of post-industrial, non-college towns in Massachusetts – struggling. There is a lot of poverty in the downtown area, which mostly obviously manifests as blighted buildings and lack of amenities (restaurants, drug stores, movie theaters, art galleries, etc.). I bike to work most mornings, and am greeted by the crumbling brick edifices all along the way.
However, Holyoke is also a city with a lot of potential. It is remarkably compact for a city of 40,000, with riverside mill buildings, brick row houses, neighborhoods of Victorian homes, Mount Tom gazing down, a progressive mayor, a diverse population (though, to be fair, the neighborhoods themselves tend to be rather segregated), and a hydro-electric dam that makes Holyoke one of the most environmentally-friendly cities in the nation.
At least, that’s what it seems like at first blush. I’ve only been here for three months, so what do I know? An urban planner by trade, I want to use this blog as a platform to explore what makes the Pioneer Valley great, what’s holding it back, and how I can help. How we can all help.