With no employment boom at the computing center, Holyoke officials and its promoters say the center’s real attraction for the area will be its ability to draw research companies and other businesses looking to establish a high-tech footprint in western Massachusetts.
“It’s a catalyst for future development for people who want to be around researchers,” said Kathleen Anderson, Holyoke’s director of planning and economic development.
The nearly 9-acre site that will house the supercomputing center is now a construction zone with open pits, a stream of heavy equipment and piles of bricks that once formed the walls of the mill and will be used as fill.
Signs of Holyoke’s past are evident everywhere — in the obvious, such as a wire manufacturing plant nearby — or harder to see, a crumbling tar surface that exposes early 20th-century brick beneath.
“The cobblestone is holding up much better than the blacktop,” Kurose said as he entered the construction in late August.
City officials and others are trying to reclaim Holyoke’s history as an industrial powerhouse in the 19th century and early 20th century that drew top entrepreneurs and immigrants seeking work. It suffered “some disinvestment over the years” as paper manufacturers left, Anderson said. And many mills changed hands, were retooled for new types of business or shut down.
Holyoke’s backers have high hopes for a modern resurgence. They’re using waste heat from the center’s computers for greenhouse and building heating systems and capitalizing on a proposed high-speed rail line to draw more business.
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