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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tennis Road 'model' set for viewing

Local officials will tour Post Office Park off Boston Road in Wilbraham Tuesday to see whether the public-private complex there, which includes the Scantic Valley YMCA, might be a good model for development proposed for an 88-acre site off Tennis Road.

"This was an item that everybody talked about during the last election, having a community center (in Agawam)," Mayor Susan R. Dawson said last week.

Dawson and several others, including City Council President Gina M. Letellier, will tour the YMCA and take a look at the complex of professional offices and retail shops that surround it to assess whether something similar might meet the needs of Agawam residents.

If the complex sparks an interest, the plan is to have all 11 city councilors tour it.

"This is our way as a town of going and having a look at what they're doing over there, to see if there's anything in the mix that would work for Agawam," said Dawson, who emphasized that no specific plans are in the works yet.

In addition to Dawson and Letellier, the tour on Tuesday, to be led by a YMCA official, will include City Councilor Jill S. Messick and Corinne M. Wingard, who serves on several city boards and is chairwoman of the Go Green Agawam Committee, an environmental group.

Dawson, Messick and Wingard were among the city officials who met with a Connecticut developer this month to discuss what might be a good fit for Agawam at the Tennis Road site, which was the subject of controversy three years ago when a 563,000-square-foot shopping center was proposed.

That project, known as the Agawam Pavilion, was defeated in November 2005 when city voters rejected a zone change for the property and a zoning ordinance amendment that would have allowed the development of a multibuilding shopping center.

Going into the meeting with the developer, whose name has not been released, most local officials were in the dark about the latest proposal for the 88 acres off Tennis Road.

Two invitees who declined to attend that meeting praised Wilbraham's Post Office Park and YMCA complex.

"It was a fantastic facility, no question about it," said Anthony C. Bonavita, who toured the YMCA late last year as chairman of the Agawam Community Recreation Center Advisory Committee. "But I want to see the entire package to see what they want to put along with it."

City Councilor Joseph Mineo, a member of the advisory committee who was also on that tour, said, "That's great, if that's what's going in over there (on Tennis Road). I think that's a wonderful idea." However, he added, "It just depends what else they're going to put there."

"Three years ago, I think the voters spoke loud and clear," Mineo said. "They don't want big box (stores) there."

Saying she opposed the Agawam Pavilion project three years ago, Letellier said, "I'm going to keep an open mind" about any new proposals for the site.

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