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Old 03-14-2011, 11:19 PM
Location: Springfield, Massachusetts
113 posts, read 359,998 times
Reputation: 123


This thread is intended to report and spread the GOOD NEWS about what I believe to be (beginnings of) urban revitalization in Springfield, Massachusetts.

It's been a hard road to hoe for Springfield, since the City got itself into a Sisyphus-like state following the controversial shutdown of the Springfield Armory in 1968. (Thank you, Pentagon. Thank you, Vietnam.)

As recently as 50 years ago, Springfield was one of the most innovative and wealthy (per capita) cities in the United States. Its ornate Victorian mansions and cultural institutions are a testament to this.

For 200 years, the city served as the sophisticated urban center of a vast region, rich in history, scenic beauty, commerce, sports, precision manufacturing, and some of the most well-regarded colleges and universities in the United States.

I grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts during the 1990s. The 90s were the worst of times in Springfield, (perhaps since the city was burned down during King Phillip's War, haha.) Urban blight and gang activity increased, as the Springfield's last monied citizens (those who hadn't left during previous decades' "white flight,”) finally left, seemingly for good.

During the 1990s, corruption crept in Springfield politics even more so than usual. This resulted in the city's finances being taken over by a state-controlled finance board during the beginning of the new millenium.

The Finance Board, though loathed by many residents, spurred many positive developments. Among them was involving the Urban Land Institute in Springfield the long neglected urban planning. Since ULI's comprehensive plan for Springfield was presented in 2006, city benefactors have taken bold steps to implement the group's suggestions-- foremost among those being the revitalization of the Metro Center neighborhood, which includes Main St and Court Square, and from Pearl Street in the North, to Mulberry Street and the South, and the State Street corridor.

Many people here on this forum may not be aware of how the city's improved itself during the past 5 years, and enhanced its livability. (Perhaps the city's been down so long that they simply don't believe it.)

I'm creating this thread, which is kind of a blog, to showcase the city's victories.

Please contribute here if you see, hear, or read any POSITIVE thing of note regarding the City of Springfield.
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Old 03-14-2011, 11:26 PM
Location: Springfield, Massachusetts
113 posts, read 359,998 times
Reputation: 123
Default Metro Center's Paramount Theater purchased, redeveloped

As reported by MassLive today (03/14/11,) Springfield's Paramount Theatre on Main Street has been purchased, and is in the process of being restored to its former grandeur by an extremely reliable local developer.

From the sounds of the article, the developer intends to turn the Paramount into a venue similar to Northhampton's Calvin Theater.

Another victory for Metro Center!

New England Farm Workers Council buys Springfield's Paramount Theater | masslive.com

This said, Metro Center could still use a movie theater. In particular, I like ULI's idea of turning towers square into a movie theater. That would attract people to downtown at all times of day, (and of course parking is right there.)
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Old 03-15-2011, 12:45 AM
Location: Springfield, Massachusetts
113 posts, read 359,998 times
Reputation: 123
Default Springfield, Mass: What It Was, How It Reached Bottom, & What's Happening Now.

A mere 40 years before the humiliation Springfield suffered when a state-run control board took charge of the city's shameful finances, historian Orra Stone called the city a “beehive of diversified production."

This production was anchored and spurred by the Springfield Armory, which since 1777, had attracted precision manufacturers to the city.

Unlike most of Massachusetts' other industrialized cities, Springfield was not reliant on textiles. After the textile industry left to the South in the early 20th century, seeking cheaper, non-unionized labor, Springfield was still extraordinarily prosperous--its economy depended on precision manufacturing--and during WWII, there was a precision manufacturing boom.

Regarding precision manufacturing, Henry Ford, the automobile giant, once praised Springfield's metalworkers; “the skill of Springfield's engineers and metal workers is traditional... And in its worldwide search for never-ending improvements, the Ford Motor Company has found in Springfield a dependable source for a substantial portion of the equipment and parts in building Ford cars.”

The first gasoline powered automobile company, the Duryea Motor Wagon Company, was founded in Springfield in 1893. The first American motorcycle company, Indian motorcycle, was also founded in Springfield in 1901--and the world's first fire engines were built in Springfield in 1905. luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce operated it's only American plant in Springfield throughout the 1920s and 30s.

Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers games were also produced in Springfield.

Springfield's still existant museums were built; its still existent symphony flourished; culture abounded like in the capitals and biggest of cities.

Springfield flourished during World War II, as the Armory pumped out small arms munitions for the war. At that time, the city counted at least twelve employers who employed over 1000 people. By the time that the Springfield Armory closed in 1968, there were only eight. Currently, there are three (up from just two in 2002.)

Why such a dramatic and excessive fall from grace for Springfield? (Up until that point, Springfield was arguably second only to Boston in New England in importance and wealth except for perhaps nearby Hartford with its insurance industry.)

The exodus from Springfield started later than in many US cities, (late 60s vs early 60s,) although it progressed at breakneck speed.

To quote Joni Mitchell, "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot” really quickly in Springfield... Why?

In 1968, the Springfield Armory-- the engine that drove Springfield since George Washington himself first selected the site 1777 to produce munitions for the U.S. Army--was shut down in a controversial decision by the Pentagon. Suddenly, the "beehive of diversified interests" was no more. (Remnants remain in the Smith & Wesson plant, still headquartered in Springfield.)

The closing of the Armory in 1968 coincided with what's been termed “white flight” to the suburbs. In the 60s and beforehand, many of the people who lived in Springfield and had money were white. Then, in a mass e exodus typical of many large cities around that time, (e.g. Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Hartford, Chicago, etc,) many of those who left placed their architecturally significant homes in the hands of predatory landlords, or people without the means or desire to maintain them. Thus much of New England's finest, and most unique residential architecture fell into disrepair.

During the late 1970s, a well-meaning but poorly executed attempt to redevelop Springfield Metro Center resulted in the city being less pedestrian friendly, more business like during the days and moribund at night, (excepting entertainments that didn't encourage family or student nights out,) and with too many ugly parking lots, which temporarily destroyed Springfield's ('til then) impressive aesthetics.

(I write temporarily because these problems currently being addressed by Springfield's urban planners.)

During the 1980s and 1990s, corruption and cronyism ran rampant in Springfield. The feeling at the time among many Greater Springfield residents was something akin to reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. MAny of us felt powerless to do anything though because Mayor Mike and his buddies seemed to have a stranglehold on the city.

Ultimately, people became fed up, and this has resulted in a flurry of reinvestment in Springfield. For example, MassMutual spent an extensive amount of money remodeling State Street-- replete with gorgeous streetlights, new sidewalks, and even a school built near its neoclassical campus.

The MassMutual Center has been revamped, and now hosts two professional sports teams--The Springfield Falcons and the Springfield Armor--not to mention traveling concerts and conventions.

Across the street, Court Square (the city's heart and central green space, although Forest Park is the city's jewel,) has been entirely updated as well.

The City of Springfield's bank, Hampden Bank, has opened six new offices recently, and from what I understand, it's better capitalized than ever to fund local projects.

Plans are afoot (yes, afoot, lol,) to develop Springfield's riverfront so that people can actually get to it and enjoy it, (e.g. plazas, mixed-use residential, TOD resulting from the trains,) and also to develop high speed rail from New Haven (already approved) and intercity rail to Brattleboro (already approved.)
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