Northampton City Briefing: Plans advance for Resilience Hub, meeting set for Monday

The city on Monday will hold the first of three community meetings to discuss plans for the new Community Resilience Hub, which will be located in the old First Baptist Church at the corner of Main and West streets.

The city on Monday will hold the first of three community meetings to discuss plans for the new Community Resilience Hub, which will be located in the old First Baptist Church at the corner of Main and West streets. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 03-22-2024 2:48 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Saying they are at a crucial stage in the planning for the Community Resilience Hub, city officials on Monday will hold the first of three public meetings to provide updates and seek input on the endeavor to create the downtown space in an old church near Forbes Library.

The city bought the former First Baptist Church building at 289 Main St. in last June for $3.175 million with the intention of converting the space into a “hub” that will support residents who face chronic and acute stress, such as those who are homeless, and act as an emergency center if there is a disaster. The hub is also planned to be the permanent home of the newly formed Division of Community Care, which debuted last year for handling emergency responses.

The 118-year-old church building has been vacant since 1993, when it was acquired by developer Eric Suher. It has about 14,500 square feet of space.

Monday’s meeting will focus on the initial building plans and history, as well as the architectural vision for the resilience hub. The second meeting, scheduled for May 1, will focus on the public health benefits of the hub, while a third meeting on June 5, will discuss integration of services at the hub. All of the meetings will take place at Edwards Church, 297 Main St., from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

In addition to the city, the meetings will be hosted by Community Action Pioneer Valley and Jones Whitsett Architects.

“We are at a crucial stage in bringing the Community Resilience Hub to life, a project that reflects our collective aspiration for a more inclusive, supportive, and resilient Northampton,” said Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra in a statement. “I encourage everyone to join us in these discussions — your voice is essential in shaping the future of our city.”

The hub will coordinate an array of services and resources in one central location, simplifying access for all community members. It will offering a daytime community center and community kitchen. The Day Center will be equipped with essential resources like clothing, Wi-Fi, showers, lockers, and a safe space to rest.

In addition, it will serve as a response center during larger community during crises, and as a space for educational, arts and public gatherings.

Forbes seeks trustees

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Forbes Library is seeking applications for two vacant positions on its board of trustees, following a recent adjustment to the board’s bylaws expanding its size from five to seven seats.

The trustees is the governing body for and is responsible for the hiring and evaluation of the director and the oversight of the library budget and policies. Lisa Downing, the library’s director, said that Forbes is looking for candidates from a variety of backgrounds to fill the position.

“Ideally, the board is a reflection of the community,” Downing said. “In this way diverse backgrounds and lived experiences are one of the most important things a candidate can bring to the table along with a strong interest in libraries.”

To apply, candidates must be registered Northampton voters and submit a statement explaining why they wish to serve as a trustee to the library director by Monday April 1. Eligible candidates will be invited to an open public meeting on Wednesday, April 10, at 5:30 p.m. where they will be asked a series of questions. The board will vote at the conclusion of that meeting. The two new trustees will then be appointed to serve through the end of 2025.

Interested applicants should send statements up to 500 words and submitted by email to director@forbeslibrary.org.

C-SPAN honors NHSstudent documentaries

Three Northampton High School students have received recognition for their entries in the 20th annual C-SPAN StudentCam competition.

The competition, run by C-SPAN and its cable television partners, asked middle and high schoolers across the country to submit their own documentaries on the theme of “Looking Forward while Considering the Past.” Students could either discuss what they felt the most important change in America should be in the next 20 years, or talk about what the most important change had been over the past 20 years.

The NHS students receiving honorable mention in this year’s competition are: Jasmine Phou, who submitted the documentary “A Woman’s Right in the Eyes of the Law,” focusing on the topic of Roe v. Wade, and the duo of Jane Harrison-Millman and Shira Sweet, who worked together to create the documentary “Closing the Gap: The Next 20 Years,” focusing on the gender wage gap.

The prize for honorable mention in the competition is $250. Harrison-Millman and Sweet finished third in U.S. East Division during last year’s competition for another documentary they created, titled “The Pain Within: Addressing Domestic Abuse in America.”

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