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Upton Selectmen, EDC Look to Revitalize Downtown Revitalization Officials say residents focusing on community center

Upton town officials say residents are excited about the new community center scheduled to open in June, but interest in the downtown revitalization project has dwindled. Contributed Scott Calzolaio

By Scott Calzolaio
On Jan. 10, the Upton Board of Selectmen and the Economic Development Committee of Upton rekindled the conversation regarding the future use of two town-owned properties in downtown Upton: the Holy Angels Church and the Knowlton-Risteen Building. 
According to town officials, the community is currently excited about the new community center opening in June, but the sentiment towards the other ongoing projects in the town has dwindled.
EDC Chairperson David Ross says, "People drive by the church and are saying, you know, ‘What’s happening here?’…There are still a lot of questions still on how exactly to proceed downtown." 
In 2019, the original vision for the church building's future included a few acceptable ideas such as saving the church, making it a mixed-use lot, or creating affordable housing. However, no defini tive choices were made.
Ross stated that the "blank canvas" approach is not working and suggested the EDC discuss the possibility of hiring a consultant to determine what the community truly needs. 
"We’ve gone down this road as far as we can,” he said. “and it’s time to pivot now and potentially look at saying it might be the town’s responsibility to find a use for, or rehab at least one of these properties."
The joint discussion also touched upon the possibility of selling the lots to a private bidder and the issue of parking in the downtown area. 
While there are high sentiments towards preserving the church building, its purpose would still be up for question.
No decisions were made during the meeting but committee member Eugene Bernat stated his belief that re-engaging the community on the possibilities could be vital to the success of the projects.
"We really strongly believe that we need to re-engage the public,” Bernat said. “I think we do need the support of the community no matter what we do. And I’m not sure that, without some sort of very focused visioning process, we can get that support."
The future of the Holy Angels Church and the Knowlton-Risteen Building remains uncertain as the community continues to weigh its options. 
The EDC hopes to re-engage the public and gather input on potential uses for the properties, keeping all setbacks in mind.