Living in Easthampton, MA

Jun 16 2009
Published by under Easthampton

Echodale Farm, Fall 2007

I bought my home in Easthampton in 1997. At the time, most of my bookkeeping clients were in Northampton and since I really don’t like to drive I wanted to stay close, but housing prices in Northampton and Florence were out of my reach (as they continue to be for many people!). At that time, there were several options in Easthampton for under $100k (not so any longer!) and I was able to find a small house in a quiet neighborhood within walking distance to town, but still safe for my cat without constant fear of her being hit by a car.

Easthampton has changed a lot since then. The local downtown remains fully functional, with banks, supermarket, hardware store, etc. (though that may change if the Stop & Shop comes in on route 10 or the bridge is closed for several months for repair in 2008/2009). There’s been development along the orchards so the incredible views of Mount Tom off Oliver Street are now partially blocked, as are the views along route 10. The 2007 census included a questionairre that had some scary implications; basically the town was floating the idea of mall development, which I think would be incredibly bad for the downtown even if it did reduce property tax rates.

The downtown is a little fractured – essentially there are two centers. One is around the rotary and green at the center of town, where there are free concerts on Friday nights during the summer. This area has several banks, a diner and coffee shops, grocery store, hardware store, used book store, etc. Turn left past the rotary and continue past the old millpond and you hit a second business cluster. Many of the old buildings in town have been redefined – Eastworks is now home to a state registry office, several stores on the first floor, small businesses and offices on the second and third floors, and apartments on the fourth floor. The old town hall has been turned into a massage school and the memorial building houses a framing studio (whose owner hosts artwalks). Both the old firestation and the Majestic Theater are now woodworking studios, and the enormous factory building at One Cottage Street is home to Riverside Industries and several artists, while PACE provides performance space. Rent is generally less expensive than similar space (if available at all) in Northampton, and there’s usually enough parking, though if you don’t drive, getting here can be difficult as the PVTA bus service remains minimal.

Right now the big question in town is the proposed Stop & Shop development on Route 10, which could seriously affect several downtown businesses, as well as the small neighborhood just to the south of the development area. This is probably followed by the landfill expansion in Northampton (a VERY hot topic in Spring 2008) which may affect the Barnes Aquifer (a source of drinking water for Westfield, Holyoke, Easthampton and Southampton) Since I am very happy I am able to drink tapwater here and always bring bottles of water with me when I work in Northampton (where the tap water often reeks of chlorine), I am concerned about this issue, as are many other residents. SavingParadise.info is a website which has information about this issue and links to newspaper coverage.

Other issues have come up during the past two years, including what’s to happen with the pool at White Brook, which was closed due to poor maintenance and the failure of the air handling system, and general economic concerns for the city as a whole, which wants to remain affordable but is having trouble maintaining services as state aid has been cut back while health care and energy costs jump double-digits each year. It’s forced city leaders to take a hard look at what services and amenities the town pays for and what kind of economic development should be planned, which could result in major changes in the city and what it’s like to live here.

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