On Wednesday, May 20, Northampton residents who live near Hospital Hill were offered a preview of the plans for offices and a new manufacturing facility to be built by Kollmorgen Electro-Optical where once the state hospital’s south campus stood. The plans are yet to be approved by the city’s Planning Board, which will officially review and debate them Thursday evening, May 28 at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers. The public is welcome to that meeting as well.
By and large, it appears that Kollmorgen and the development company they’ve been working with, O’Connell Development Group of Holyoke, have been responsive to resident concerns that the new facility would negatively impact its environment. The two-story, 140,000-square-foot structure will be set as far back as possible from Route 66 so as not to completely obscure the mountain view, and much of the building and the nearly 500-car parking lots will be masked by existing trees, new plantings and a berm. Representatives from O’Connell spoke earnestly about their efforts to offer as green and sustainable a solution as possible.
While at least one resident expressed dismay at having to drive by what he called an “eyesore” each day, most of the nearly 30 neighbors present kept their opinions to themselves and tried to focus on questions the developers and Kollmorgen president Michael Wall could answer—questions about the new plans, including the extra traffic Kollmorgen would bring to the site.
Wall said that around 15 tractor trailer trucks visited Kollmorgen each week (two or three a day, he estimated), and that generally they turn their engines off and do not idle outside the building. When asked how cars and trucks would approach and leave the new site, the developers indicated that this was a question beyond the scope of their project. It was up to the drivers to decide whether they travel via Northampton’s downtown or decide to use the recently widened Earle Street route that would take them for a mile’s journey along South Street, through Ward 4, and onto Conz Street and the highway beyond.
The meeting was organized by Ward 4 city councilor David Narkewicz and held in the former Cahillane Dodge dealership on South Street.