Living the High Street Life: A Plan to Revitalize Holyoke’s South High Street

Working with the City of Holyoke's Office of Planning and Economic Development and One Holyoke, a local community development corporation, this practicum will develop strategies for public and private investment in a traditional small city downtown.

Holyoke is small city in the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts. The paper and textile industries helped it grow in the 19th century, but by the mid-1900's those industries had faded. Today, median household income is $40,769, less than half the state median. Over half the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. As a result of limited disposable income in the area, as well as trends towards online retail and the rise of supercenters outside the downtown, High Street has struggled over the past 30 years. Downtown housing as well as new approaches to placemaking, retail, and service centers are all potential parts of a strategy for equitable revitalization. 

Practicum team members include: DUSP's Yu Jing Chen, Jola Idowu, Sarah Kalish, Ponpat (Ann) Sahacharoenwat, and Ilana Strauss; Harvard Graduate School of Design's Emma Bonanno and Megan McGlinchey; Harvard Kennedy School's Bailey Siber; Brandeis University's Benjamin Cooper; and Tufts University's Jasmine Olins.

Living the High Street Life

Streets serve many roles in a community, acting as a means for transportation and connection, as well as for individual, community, and cultural expression. Main streets serve as a representation of the city and have the potential to act as a spatial marker of the values and lives of the residents. The opportunity to revitalize High Street in Holyoke, Massachusetts, is an opportunity to think critically about the community’s identity, and to serve the interests of all those who live, work, and visit in Holyoke.

The class Revitalizing Urban Main Streets, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) led by Jeff Levine, has partnered with the City of Holyoke for a study of South High Street. The project has been in close communication with the Office of Planning and Economic Development, One Holyoke, and the Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) representative for the City of Holyoke.

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