Belchertown Day School buys land at former State School site for early childhood education center

Belchertown Day School has purchased two acres the former site of the Belchertown State School, where it plans to build a 8,600-square-foot early-childhood education center and afterschool facility.

MassDevelopment announced the sale in a news release Wednesday.

“We no longer will be renting; we will have a school to call our own that will be a forever home,” the school’s executive director Pat Bruni said in an interview Wednesday. “This new school means so much to us.”

Belchertown Day School paid $133,333 for the land, according to documents filed Dec. 11 at the Hampshire County Registry of Deeds. The seller was the Belchertown Economic Development industrial Corp.

Also on file is a document requiring Belchertown Day School to build the childcare facility and to start construction within six months of buying the land.

MassDevelopment also said a new road at the 55-acre site, called Carriage Drive, opened in December.

At over a third of a mile, Carriage Drive opens the Carriage Grove neighborhood for residential, commercial, and industrial uses and realigns Jackson Street to move traffic away from an established neighborhood. The Day School site is on Carriage Drive.

MassDevelopment calls Carriage Grove a “new neighborhood” at the State School site, part of a master plan for up to 581,000 square feet of mixed-use development.

“MassDevelopment is proud to oversee the development of Carriage Grove from a former state school into a first-rate mixed-use neighborhood,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss said in a statement. “The addition of Belchertown Day School, Inc. and the recent completion of Carriage Drive mark two exciting milestones in our redevelopment efforts, and create momentum toward the build-out of this community.”

Carriage Drive opened Dec. 1, 2019. Funding included a $3 million grant from the Commonwealth’s MassWorks Infrastructure Program, according to the release.

Founded in 1977, Belchertown Day School is a nonprofit providing early childhood education for more than 100 children between ages 15 months and 12 years old. It has toddler and preschool classes, before and after-school programming and vacation and summer programming, according to a news release.

Belchertown Day School currently operates out of leased space at 432 State St. in Belchertown.

Deeds documents show at least $2.9 million in funding for the project. The new building will be financed by Children’s Investment Fund’s Early Education and Out of School Time Capital Fund, according to deeds documents. Additional financing is from Blue Hub Capital and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Facilities Program.

At least a quarter of the 110 slots in the new school will be set aside for children from low-income families.

Following the Belchertown State School’s closure in 1992, the Belchertown Economic Development and Industrial Corporation purchased the Carriage Grove site from the state, according to Wednesday’s news release. The main campus of the property contained almost 400,000 square feet of abandoned buildings and utility tunnels with significant environmental issues that required abatement and demolition.

MassDevelopment is the state’s finance and development agency.

The Belchertown Planning Board approved a site plan for the Day School in February 2019.

Jim Russell contributed reporting.

SourceMassLive