Questions left unanswered as Trinity Health confirms plan to demolish Farren Care Center

  • The vacant Farren Care Center on Montague City Road in Montague. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/26/2022 6:52:55 PM
Modified: 4/26/2022 6:51:26 PM

MONTAGUE — The town plans to once again contact Farren Care Center parent company Trinity Health of New England seeking more information after the company confirmed its plans to demolish the hospital.

Town Administrator Steve Ellis told the Selectboard at Monday’s meeting that Trinity Health failed to address key inquiries of town interest that he had reiterated to the company in February. Answers sought by the town that were not addressed in Trinity Health’s response, relayed on April 19, include a set timeline; notice of a filed demolition permit indicating a start date; confirmation that the company would hand the property over to the town along with the title; and confirmation on whether Montague would also receive the cleared land in the form of a grassy field.

“We don’t know whether these are unaddressed strategically or if it was just undetailed writing,” Ellis said of Trinity Health’s April 19 letter.

“I don’t think any of us were particularly surprised,” Historical Commission member Chris Sawyer-Lauçanno commented at a commission meeting Monday morning.

The Farren closed last April, having essentially merged with a similar facility in Holyoke called Mount St. Vincent Care Center. All of the Farren’s 105 residents were reportedly offered space at the Holyoke facility. Trinity Health has maintained that the Montague City Road building was too old for its purposes and would be too expensive to update to modern standards.

After its condition assessment yielded a recommendation to demolish the facility, the company declined to release the entirety of the study to the town, a decision Montague officials say breached their initial agreement. Residents and officials alike have been calling on Trinity Health for transparency since then.

“Our intention always has been to handle this situation in a respectful matter that has the health and safety of your community at the fore of all decision-making,” Trinity Health of New England Senior Communities President Janice Hamilton-Crawford wrote in the company’s statement.

In addition to announcing that it is “planning to demolish the buildings,” Trinity Health’s updates included plans to contribute $100,000 toward Montague’s redevelopment study; plans to preserve the parking lot across the street; clarification that the company is unsure if the former residence and office space on the property will be demolished; and intentions to collaborate with the town to “identify unique artifacts for preservation.”

“My understanding is that many of the religious aspects will be removed or be retained by the family,” Historical Commission Chair David Brule said during Monday’s Historical Commission meeting, referencing the descendants of the Farren’s architect, for whom the building is named. The Diocese of Springfield would have the option to keep religious artifacts, according to Trinity Health’s letter.

Gina Govoni, executive director of the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority, brought to the Selectboard’s attention that “very well-respected developer” Bob Stevens of Brattleboro, Vermont-based Stevens & Associates is “interested in pursuing a study for the space that might include saving the building if that were in the interest of the town.” Ellis, who confirmed that he had spoken with Govoni about this prospect, said that while “no interested developer had contacted (him) directly,” the town would be willing to entertain a serious proposal should it emerge from conversations with the housing authority.

Efforts to reach Stevens were unsuccessful by press time on Tuesday.

Ellis reiterated that the Selectboard’s “primary concern throughout the process has been mitigating long-term risk to the community” by not taking appropriate action with vacant buildings, something Chair Rich Kuklewicz expressed Monday evening.

“I would certainly like to see this building developed,” Kuklewicz assured, reasoning that his hesitation stems from similar redevelopment situations that have “cost literally over $1 million dollars.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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