Northampton considers $1.4M in CPA projects, including for a new inclusive playground at RK Finn school

A rendering of the proposed “Playground for All” at Ryan Road Elementary, which aims to provide greater accessibility to students and caregivers.

A rendering of the proposed “Playground for All” at Ryan Road Elementary, which aims to provide greater accessibility to students and caregivers. PLANNING & SUSTAINABILITY

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 06-20-2024 5:20 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A new inclusive playground may soon be coming to RK Finn Ryan Road Elementary School.

The playground is just one of nine projects in line to receive a combined total of $1.4 million during the latest round of CPA funding. Other project proposals include design of a new park in the city’s downtown, repairs to city-owned Memorial Hall and a 30-unit affordable home project on Crafts Avenue behind City Hall.

The City Council was expected to take up the requests at its meeting Thursday night.

The $765,000 grant for the new playground at the elementary school off Ryan Road is by far the largest proposal this round. The current playground, according to the financial order for appropriating the funds, is out of date and suffers from age-related corrosion. The new playground will not only update its infrastructure, but provide more accessibility and inclusivity for “children and caregivers of varying cognitive, sensory and social-emotional abilities.”

If approved, construction is expected to begin in July and be complete in August.

The playground would feature a flat, rubber surface that allows for easy travel for those with mobility needs such as wheelchairs, according to an application submitted to the Community Preservation Committee. It would also feature ramped play structures, ground level play options and a wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round, according to the application.

“Our vision of an inclusive playground is one that adheres to the principles of universal design, which enables and empowers a diverse population of children and their families to have access to outdoor play areas that support health and wellness, creativity and social participation,” the application states. “Not only will this project benefit all children by creating a truly inclusive playground, it will also benefit teachers and caregivers who have mobility and access needs, allowing them to play, interact with or supervise the children in their care.”

Other projects

Other project requests include:

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■$300,000 for repairs to Memorial Hall, located next to City Hall and home to several city departments, such as Central Services, the Arts Council, Human Resources and Veteran’s Services, among others.

The century-and-a-half old building has taken in large amounts of water over the years without adequate means of drainage, which has begun to affect the building’s foundation. Such deficiencies cause the building’s basement to frequently flood and water to seep into its brick exterior following rainstorms or thawing of snow.

■ $200,000 to the Valley Community Development toward development of a six-story affordable housing complex at 27 Crafts Ave., located behind City Hall.

The units, which would be completely fossil fuel-free, would have an average size of 327 square feet and 20 of the units would be reserved for individuals making less than $20,000 a year, with a preference for those facing the prospect of homelessness.

The project has also received $921,300 from a Municipal Vulnerability Program grant, and expects to receive additional state grants and tax credits.

Construction of the $18.8 million building is expected to begin in January 2026 and be completed in May 2027.

■$77,000 to the city of Northampton to design a public park in conjunction with Picture Main Street, the massive redesign of Main Street set to begin next year.

The park would be located by First Churches at 129 Main St. and would feature lighting, a seating area and a small water fountain, according to the design application.

■ $60,000 to the Office pf Planning and Sustainability for an agricultural preservation restriction program; $50,000 to Habitat for Humanity for development of an affordable home on Woodland Drive; $47,104 to Historic Northampton for architectural examination of the historic Parsons and Shepherd houses located on Bridge Street; $19,131 for invasive species removal at the Lathrop retirement community; and $6,000 for an affordable housing monitor position for the Office of Planning and Sustainability.

CPA funds are generated by a local 3% surcharge on property tax; matched at varying amounts each year by allocations from state funds. CPA funds are a special revenue fund separate from the city’s general budget, and may only be allocated to eligible community preservation projects in four categories: historic preservation, recreation, affordable housing and open space preservation.

Following $1.4 million for six projects that were approved by the council last fall, the spring grants will exhaust available CPA funds for the current fiscal year.

Since its adoption, CPA funds have been allocated to more than 175 projects, including preservation of hundreds of acres of open space and agricultural land, creation of more than 200 units of affordable housing, creation of many miles of multi-use trails and new recreational fields and facilities across the city, and restoration of more than 30 historic resources and structures.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.