Eminent Domain Abuse in Holyoke, Massachusetts

Officials in Holyoke, Massachusetts, a city of 39,880 that is 90 miles west of Boston, are gearing up for eminent domain abuse. At a public hearing Monday, planners told residents about plans to attract private development to four neighborhoods that are “decadent”—a designation that allows the city to seize property from unwilling sellers for private projects “as a last resort.”

Via The Republican:

The full City Council in the next few weeks is scheduled to vote on the plan, which officials said is intended to spur private investment to help in revitalizing the Flats, South Holyoke, Churchill and Prospect Heights-Downtown neighborhoods.

The Holyoke Redevelopment Authority and staff of the Office of Planning and Economic Development prepared the plan: “Connect. Construct. Create. – A plan to revitalize Center City Holyoke."

The urban renewal plan calls for the acquisition of 74 properties in the 749-acre project area, which sits next to the Connecticut River. Many of those parcels are vacant lots or vacant buildings, but homes and businesses are included as well. Of course, all 1,664 private properties in the project area will be under the cloud of condemnation for the life span of the plan, which can be decades.

The consultant that prepared the blight study (and the urban renewal plan itself), finds that the area is “decadent” because of substandard public infrastructure, “irregular lot sizes,” the presence of vacant lots that lack “curb appeal,” and old buildings—fully 50 percent of the buildings are over 100 years old. Moreover, there is an appalling “diversity of ownership” among the thousands of private properties, some of which are small and, therefore, a serious “constraint to attracting new private development.”

The Holyoke Redevelopment Authority has released an insipid inspirational video about the plan. A quote from senior planner Karen Mendrala:

The changes that are included in the urban renewal plan and in our blueprint of where we want to go include everything from making sidewalks better, making them safer to walk on for all people with strollers, people with disabilities, and to make bike lanes, to include all sorts of road improvements, addressing vacant buildings and either rehabbing them or getting rid of them if they are beyond repair, a whole bunch of different actions that will make Holyoke a better place…. Holyoke needs to change to a future beyond the dream.

Massachusetts is one of six states that did not pass any eminent domain reform in the wake of Kelo v. New London, where the Supreme Court held that seizing property for private development is a public use.

Check out the archive for more Reason coverage of eminent domain abuse.

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  • Appalachian Australian||

    Decadent neighbourhoods? If Ohio starts doing this, Warty, UBOH, and I are all in big trouble.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Moreover, there is an appalling "diversity of ownership" among the thousands of private properties, some of which are small and, therefore, a serious "constraint to attracting new private development."

    Holy shit.

  • $park¥||

    The best part of this story is that the City Council is deluded enough to think that anybody would want to build in fucking Holyoke. That city is like a festering sore in an unwashed armpit.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    So - Easst Detroit

  • Appalachian Australian||

    I'm a little shocked the planner used the term "urban renewal", considering that phrase's historical connotations. (I.e. forcing poor people, minorities, veterans, and people with low-grade mental illnesses out of their homes.) Many of the mentally ill who got forced out during urban renewal now live on the street.

    I'm guessing they think that if they build bike lanes, hipsters will come.

  • $park¥||

    There are no hipsters except the ones infesting Northampton and they won't be leaving. Those people you listed parenthetically make up 90% of the population of Holyoke. Springfield is the nearest city and the best to be said about it is that it's not Holyoke.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    I would like to hear these "planners" explain where they want these people to live, since the only planning skill they seem to be capable of is systematically destroying any neighbourhood that's not white and upper-middle-class.

  • ||

    I love how Holyoke, which is just outside Springfield, is designated as "90 miles west of Boston". There are other cities in MA than Boston, dude. Yeah, it's the capitol of New England, but still.

  • ||

    Springfield? Do you mean that city outside of Dayton?

  • ||

    SHUT UP YOU OHIO REDNECK SOUTHERNER

  • ||

    OHIO IS THE HEART OF IT ALL YOU FUCKING DICKLORD

  • ||

    SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Ohio - State Motto: "Nothing to See Since 1803"

  • ||

    There's really only a couple other cities. And Springfield is boring. Worcester, maybe.

  • RightNut||

    Brockton, Fallriver, Lowell....not that any of those places are exactly...um....whats the word..."nice", but still cities.

  • ||

    Brockton. Yikes.

  • steve walsh||

    New England has a capitol?

  • Lyle||

    Holyoke has an urban renewal plan?

  • $park¥||

    Yeah, I don't get it either.

  • The Hammer||

    a whole bunch of different actions that will make Holyoke a better place…. Holyoke needs to change to a future beyond the dream.

    IT'S FOR THE GREATER GOOD!

  • The Hammer||

    What the hell did I do to be forced to see ads for the View?

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    It must have been terrible, awful, wicked to have such a horror brought upon you

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    BTW, that picture of the chicks with the man hands - I could do without seeing that again. Ever. kthxbai

  • ||

    Truly delusional. Holyoke ranks at or near the top statewide in the all-important teen pregnancy and high school dropout rates, has a population of which probably 25% speaks very little to no English, and its major industry is crack sales-- it's one of the few places in MA that makes Pittsfield, where I live, look good by comparison.

    The answering service I work at answers for the two largest medical practices in Holyoke, and the defining characteristic of their callers is that when you answer the phone in English, they respond in Spanish, yet when you tell them you don't speak Spanish, rather than requiring a translator, they switch to English. I don't think it's racist of me to be disturbed by the assumptions this hints at; understand that I am not generalizing from a few experiences, I am talking about something I experience daily, which has been repeated literally tens of thousands of times over the last six years.

    So, yeah, not seeing the same possibilities that city officials are. Plus? This is New England, 50% of the buildings being over 100 years old isn't just common, it's considered desirable.

  • Appalachian Australian||

    They see "possibilities" in evicting all the current residents and just hoping they'll just go away.

    Central planning at it's finest. "If we don't plan to have any drug addicts or poor people, they'll all magically turn into nice middle class people with stable jobs."

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    our blueprint of where we want to go include everything from making sidewalks better, making them safer to walk on for all people with strollers, people with disabilities, and to make bike lanes, to include all sorts of road improvements, addressing vacant buildings and either rehabbing them or getting rid of them if they are beyond repair,

    Everything on that list could be done *without* eminent domain. I fail to see how fixing sidewalks, road repairs, and building rehab requires taking the property. Cities do this kind of thing all the time. "Business Improvement District" or some such thing they usually call it.

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