HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The Massachusetts Executive Office of Veterans Services has been awarded $164M in federal grant funding for new construction at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

In a news release sent to 22News from state Senator John Velis, this is the first federal funding award for the project from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs State Home Construction Grant Program. 

“I’m old school, I can’t say with absolute certainty that a project is going to happen until all the funders have committed and yesterday the feds did. So to know that we are going to be able to have a home and service a need for years and years to come and it’s going to be care with honor and dignity. You can tell I’m really excited,” said Velis.

In May 2021, Governor Charlie Baker signed the $400 million bond bill to support the reconstruction project. As a result, the state was able to apply for the VA Construction Grant Program which was approved last year.

The Holyoke Veterans’ Home has now officially entered a Memorandum of Agreement with the VA and will receive the rest of the $263.5M in future fiscal years. The remaining $136.5M for the project will come from the state.  

All that money is marked to make this state-of-the-art building plan a reality over the next five years, with estimated completion in summer 2028. It has taken almost that long to complete the planning and funding phase of the project.

“People don’t appreciate sometimes the level of detail it takes to get this level of funding. So this is huge this is a major accomplishment everyone should be proud of the work that has been done but there is a lot more work to be done,” said John Paradis of the Veterans’ Advocacy Coalition.

As construction gets underway later this year, that additional work is making sure the new facility is properly staffed.

It will be a 350,000-square-foot facility with a host of outdoor amenities like gardens, a greenhouse, a veterans memorial, and a pavilion. Finally, all the bells and whistles of a brand-new healthcare facility, like triple-glazed windows, geothermal heating and cooling, and a tunable circadian lighting system, to name a few.

This design was created in earnest after the tragic Covid-19 outbreak that killed more than 70 veterans in 2020. A VA inspection from 2016 found that there were as little as 13 inches of space between beds in rooms that housed multiple veterans, later contributing to the severity of that outbreak.

Construction at Holyoke has already begun, as well as another rebuilding project at the Chelsea Veterans’ Home.