Neighbors up there have a sinking feeling: Round Hill Road will continue to be fenced off for at least the next two weeks. The road is now two barricaded dead-ends, with no crosstown access for cars, pedestrians or bikers.
In an email sent August 26th to Janet Gross, a Round Hill Road resident, in response to her questions as to how long the road is to remain closed, Louis Hasbrouck, Northampton’s Building Commissioner, wrote that fire-damaged Rogers Hall is still being evaluated, and he expects that the road will be closed for another two weeks. He said an engineer did an initial review shortly after the fire and determined that the building is not in imminent danger of collapse.The road was closed, Hasbrouck explained, as a precaution because it was close enough to Rogers to present some risk.
In the email he further stated, “The Northampton fire investigator and I met with several engineers. (We) were at the site yesterday along with owners, the contractors and representatives from the insurance companies. The rest of engineering evaluations should be complete by next Wednesday and cleanup at Rogers Hall will happen soon after that.”
Northampton firefighters were able to stop the fire from spreading to Hubbard Hall, but the smoke and water damage to Hubbard has evidently turned out to be more extensive than initially thought. It was first thought that the tenants would be back in the building in a matter of weeks.
Kara Peterman was a tenant displaced by the fire. She is on the faculty at UMass and wrote us from Europe, where she is vacationing. She said she loved her apartment, which was apparently undamaged, and hoped to go back to it.
“They have given us a mid-October estimate to move back in, not nearly as soon as we hoped. Many of us start new jobs Sept. 1, so not having a home just adds to what is already a tumultuous time. They do allow us to access our apartments, by appointment only. They changed the locks on the exterior, so we cannot get into the building any more. In my case, my apartment and things are undamaged (luckily!), so it is very weird going back to this pristine apartment I can’t live in. They have put us up in hotels for the remaining time we are displaced.”
Since the fire a group of workers from a Chicopee firm specializing in cleanups has been working inside Hubbard Hall cleaning it up, and airing the building out. A few days ago work came to a halt.
“Work on Hubbard is turning out to be more extensive that anticipated,” stated Hasbrouck in his email to Janet Gross. “Most of the interior walls and ceilings are coming out to prevent mold. I don’t have a timeline, but once the cleanup is complete, the general contractor ( Crocker Construction) will start putting it back together.”
About 11:45 pm
Thanks to the neighbors for the pictures.
I was walking around the campus the other day and a project that began in 2013 and was originally supposed to be finished in 2014 seems to be adrift, bedeviled by fire and confusion and constantly shifting plans. Two years ago there was flood damage when pipes broke in Hubbard Hall. The building that held the swimming pool was supposed to be demolished and repurposed still stands empty. Historic Rogers Hall is just a burnt-out shell. Trees are rotting, other buildings are empty. Round Hill Road is closed since the fire, which was three weeks ago. The Fire Marshal’s Office was here, and their investigation into the cause of the fire is open and ongoing. “This investigation could take months,” their spokesperson told me. And then there is the Picknellys’ one-time partner in the venture, Dimetrious Pantelakis.
STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO