By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – Where there was once the old Chestnut Middle School city officials hope new housing or businesses will locate.
Standing in front of the debris from the fire-ravaged building in the North End, Mayor Domenic Sarno announced on May 1 the city has begun the process of demolishing the structure, part of which is still standing.
The school had been vacant for years before a fire destroyed most of it in September 2013.
Sarno said, “With the tragedy, comes opportunity.”
The mayor explained the city would issue a Request for Proposals for redevelopment once the demolishment is complete. He thanked the City Council for approving the $2.5 million bond needed to fund the project.
Sarno and the city’s Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy both said that housing could work on the site, but also both noted the location proximity to Mercy Medical Center and Baystate Medical Center, which could attract medical office buildings.
Kennedy said this demolition would include the removal of the foundations of the former school, which should be of interest to developers, as it would decrease the cost of redevelopment.
Sarno also thanked the neighborhood for being “very, very patient” and described the cleanup “very complicated.” Asbestos in the structure had to be addressed.
Jose Claudio, the chief operating officer of the New North Citizens Council, said the redevelopment is “a big project that could really help the city financially.”
Kennedy said long-time school site would become a tax generator once a private developer owns it. He added that in the past efforts to redevelop the building proved to be unsuccessful.
The demolition is expected to continue through the end of August.