Community Profile

Municipal improvements turn Holden into 'magnet'
Town spends $110M on upgrades, including schools, sewer systems

By Teri Borseti, Globe Correspondent, 4/29/2000

Holden at a glance
Incorporated: 1737
Population: 15,730
Area: 36 miles
Distance from Boston: 46 miles
Tax rate: $18.28
Form of government: Board of selectmen
Median house price: $147,300
Schools: Three elementary, one junior high, one regional high school
Houses of worship: Catholic, Evangelist, Baptist, Congregational, Lutheran, Episcopal, nondenominational chapel Nearest hospital: Worcester Services: Municipal light department, Charter Communications, ComGas, full-time police and fire
Library: Gale Free Library
HOLDEN - The town has spent the past few years and a considerable amount of money upgrading just about everything.

More than $110 million has been spent so far on new schools, a new sewer system and a new senior center. Many of the town's roads have undergone reconstruction to improve their condition and safety, and a municipal light building is scheduled to be built this year. [an error occurred while processing this directive]

The town also has formed a partnership with Bell Atlantic and Charter Cable to install 9,200 feet of cable on Main Street underground.

Town Manager Brian Bullock said: "We just started doing these things because they needed to be done. And all of a sudden we became a magnet. People want good schools. New schools and sewer systems make it easier to sell houses," he said.

In the Jefferson section of town, Bullock said, plans are underway to rehabilitate the site of a former mill into both residential housing and and commercial space for small businesses. He said the the building housed small businesses until 1987.

Real estate broker/owner Janice Mitchell of Janice Mitchell Realtors said the town has become a choice location for people in Greater Worcester who cannot afford to move to towns further to the east, such as Shrewsbury, Boylston Northborough and Sudbury.

"A couple of years ago we noticed people starting to move into Holden because homes are affordable here, and now the schools are also a big draw," Mitchell said.

School Superintendent Alfred Tutela said he thinks the school system, which ranked 15th in the most recent round of MCAS testing, are now Holden's best asset.

"When I first got started here we had 14 portable classrooms, and some of the buildings were badly in need of work due to budget cuts caused by Proposition 2 1/2. Today we have a new elementary, another new one opening in September, and a third that's been renovated," he said.

The town is negotiating to purchase the land adjacent to the high school, Tuetela said. After a $73 million regional high school is built, the old school will be razed and the land used for athletic fields.

Tutela said five towns (Rutland, Paxton, Holden, Sterling and Princeton) that use the regional high school will vote on the issue in June.

"It would cost $63 million to rehabilitate the old school, so it just makes sense to build a new one. We need it," he said.

While young families are drawn to the town by the schools, senior citizens will be attracted by the 9,000-square-foot senior center that's under construction.

Mitchell also is working with developers to construct a 108-unit, over-55 community called Oaks of Holden. When completed, one-bedroom condominiums there will start at $139,900.

Mitchell, who raised her family in town, said that as soon as she gets a home sale listing, the property sells. "Last week I got four listings and sold them all," she said during a recent interview.

The largest subdivision, Morning Side Estates, which is nearing completion, is a 90-lot parcel where four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath Colonials with a two-car garage start at $239,900, she said.

"There are also a few other smaller developments around town, but because the town has remained affordable, properties sell quickly. Even condos sell quickly, whether they're listed at $80,000 or $150,000, they sell," she said.

Mitchell said the most expensive property she had listed was a subdividable nine-acre horse farm, which was listed for $469,900. At the other end of the spectrum, a fixer-upper Cape was listed for $122,900.

This story ran on page E1 of the Boston Globe on 4/29/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company
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