Former First Baptist Church potential Resilience Hub
Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra announced Friday that the city has an option to buy the former First Baptist Church at 298 Main St. for use as the Community Resilience Hub. This allows the city to do the necessary work to determine if the 14,500-square-foot building can be converted to the hub.

The city has sought a suitable location since the 2019 report “A Downtown Northampton for Everyone: Residents, Visitors, Merchants, and People At Risk” identified the need for such a resource center.

Sciarra said, ” I am profoundly excited to repurpose this historically significant building in service for the people of Northampton as a day center with programming and services for vulnerable residents, a community space, and a center for emergency response during times of crisis.”

The city has designated $1,610,000 in cannabis mitigation funds, $506,872 in Community Development Block Grants, a $200,000 gift from Smith College, and $53,268 in other donations to purchase the site and associated costs in establishing the Resilience Hub. Community Action Pioneer Valley is the city’s social service partner as the lead operating agency for the hub, which will also serve as a home for the new Department of Community Care.

The First Baptist Church was built in 1904. Its congregation, the First Baptist Church of Northampton, merged in 1988 with the First Congregational Church, creating the First Churches of Northampton at 129 Main St. The Baptist Church has been vacant since 1993, when it was purchased by Eric Suher, owner of the Iron Horse Entertainment Group.

Parking on Stoddard and Prospect streets 
The City Council on Thursday unanimously approved two ordinances related to parking on Stoddard and Prospect streets.

One ordinance establishes no-parking zones on alternate sides of Stoddard Street. The second ordinance prohibits parking on the northeast side of Prospect Street for 65 feet northwest from its intersection with Stoddard Street.

Banning use of wild animals for entertainment
The City Council on Thursday unanimously approved an ordinance banning the use of wild and exotic animals in performances or exhibitions in the city intended as entertainment.

The goal is to protect those animals from cruel and inhumane treatment in traveling shows such as circuses.

The ordinance excludes wildlife sanctuaries; demonstrations intended for educational or research purposes; and exhibitions in a fixed facility that do not require transportation of the animals.

JFK pool again open on weekends 
Beginning Saturday, Dec. 3, the pool at John F. Kennedy Middle School is again open on weekends for community use. The pool had not been available on weekends since the summer of 2021 when the city was unable to fill the custodian’s position that includes weekend shifts at JFK.

The pool is now open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for four lanes of lap swim and open swim, and 1 to 3 p.m. for three lanes of lap swim and open swim with diving board. Sunday hours are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for four lanes of lap swim and open swim, and 1 to 3 p.m. for three lanes of lap swim and open swim with diving board.

A pass for December costs $36 for residents and $60 for non-residents. Walk-in day passes cost $5 for residents and $8 for non-residents.

City Council budget ‘listening session’ 
The City Council Committee on Finance, of which I am a member, will hold a virtual “listening session” at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7, to hear from the public about the municipal budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2023.

This Is an opportunity for city councilors to hear from residents about their spending priorities before the formal process of approving next year’s budget begins in early 2023. Anyone unable to attend may email comments to [email protected].

Planning Board hearing on YMCA outdoor improvements
The Planning Board will meet at 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 8, in the City Council chambers at 212 Main St., and a hearing is scheduled at 7:20 p.m. to review the site plan for outdoor improvements at the Hampshire Regional YMCA, 286 Prospect St.

The plans include a new permanently covered pavilion next to the building and behind the parking lot off Woodlawn Avenue, and two upgraded spaces near the existing playground that could be covered temporarily by shade sails, Also, a fenced play area with a shade sail is proposed for the front of the building near Prospect Street.

The upgraded outdoor areas would be used for a variety of activities, including exercise classes, summer camps and child-care programs. These improvements planned for 2023 are the first of three phases to upgrade the YMCA building and its grounds. A capital campaign also is planned for 2023.

Northampton Rehabilitation and Nursing Center redevelopment
The Planning Board on Oct. 27 unanimously approved the site plan filed by Valley Community Development Corp. to redevelop the former nursing home at 737 Bridge Road into 60 units of affordable housing,

Laura Baker, the real estate development director for Valley CDC, provides this update about work expected at the site, which has been vacant since 2011:

Also in October, Valley learned that the property received a grant from the Massachusetts Underutilized Properties Program that will pay for hazardous materials abatement (primarily asbestos) within the building. This abatement work is a necessary precursor to future interior demolition and renovation. Valley expects to begin this abatement work this month. Neighbors will see an uptick in activity at the site, anticipated to include additional fencing around the building, multiple Dumpsters in parking areas, various equipment, and workers. 

Please contact William Womeldorf at Valley if you have any questions or comments: [email protected] or 413-586-5855 x160.