Holyoke YMCA Free to Demolish Neighboring Mansion

The Holyoke YMCA is now free to demolish an historic mansion across the street from its building.

On Wednesday, a 6-month demolition delay imposed by the city’s historic commission will end.

Olivia Mausel, chair of the commission, looked up at the Farr House earlier this week. It was once owned by Herbert Farr, the co-owner of one of the city’s first textile companies.

Mausel describes it as a “1901 Queen Anne Victorian red brick structure.”

And now the building’s all boarded up. The Y, which owns the property, intends to tear it all down.

In a statement, the Y says it values Holyoke’s history. But membership is growing and it needs the parking to accommodate its members’ needs, which are “more important than a building”.

Holyoke residents and the historic commission have been trying to convince the Y to consider other options like redeveloping the building or asking members to park on nearby streets.

“I would hope that we could restore [the Farr House] and that it would be a wonderful addition to the community instead of just a parking lot,” says Mausel.

A spokesperson for the Y declined an interview request and refused to say whether a demolition date has been set.

Tom Lyons is a member of the Y and says he feels that the neighborhood isn’t safe enough to park on nearby streets.

“The Y’s been a diamond-in-the-rough for my wife and I,” Lyons says. “But, in the evening, I may not have a real problem with [parking away from the Y] but certainly my wife would. It’s quite obvious the neighborhood here is spotty.”

Gladys Lebron-Martinez disputes this, saying that she feels safe in the neighborhood. She’s a resident of the surrounding neighborhood and represents the ward on the Holyoke city council.

Lebron-Martinez is also a member of the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority, which will discuss the issue at a meeting Wednesday evening.

“My hope is that we can come to a resolution,” Lebron-Martinez says. “I don’t know if it is possible or not yet. Those are things that I’m still trying to figure out myself.”

Because of the property’s zoning, starting Wednesday, the Y can demolish the Farr House. But it can’t build a parking lot on top of it without applying for a zoning change.

This story was written and reported by David Chang.