What happens to buildings after the headlines?
By G. Michael Dobbs
Ever wonder what the story is behind buildings that have had a start at redevelopment and then faltered?
Here's my short list:
The former Federal Building on Main Street in Springfield
There are plenty of rumors about this building, but so far there have been no concrete plans announced. We need to have that building be more than the location of a few federal offices.
The former library in downtown Chicopee
The Bissonnette Administration has tried several times to interest developers in the building, but none of these efforts have borne fruit. What's next?
The former Elm Street/Court Square Hotel complex
What the hell has happened to this makeover? Months ago we were told the developers were going to get their financing straight and make their plans final and we've not seen or heard anything since.
The Rivoli Theater complex
Here's another place with promise that has seemingly gone into the deep freeze. I'd hate to think such an asset to downtown Chicopee would go to waste.
The York Street Jail property
After telling the public how important it was to clear away the old jail, this parcel has been sitting undeveloped for months and months. What s happening?
The conversion of the old Holyoke Fire headquarters into an intermodal center had been on my list, but thankfully that project is finally on its way after years of stagnation.
Do you have a building you're watching?
I was happy to have once again participated in the annual student journalism program at American International College last week and my charge was to teach a class on how to interview.
Naturally I asked the 20 or so high school students who they would like to interview. The answers were interesting to me.
One young man said he like to interview former President George W. Bush and make him tell the truth. I had to break the news to him that interviewing doesn't ensure truthful answers.
Another young man who said he would like to be a journalist and an actor said he wished he could interview James Dean. A young woman thought that interviewing John Lennon would be fascinating.
The other answers were quite thoughtful and varied. Not a single person mentioned any teen heartthrob type. No one said Paris Hilton or a porn star " which is of course the same thing.
What I was most pleased about is no one said the Jonas Brothers. And they all laughed at how Id like to strangle each of them " smart kids.
As I ve written before in this column, no entity has done a better job of committing a public suicide than many newspapers.
Too many papers have management, besotted by greed and blissfully unaware of the competition from new media, which have announced with perverse pride how they ve cut jobs and content in order to save money " content that drew readers and advertisers to the newspapers themselves.
While the Internet has sucked away some readers and chain stores have eroded the local advertising base, I blame newspaper s predicament on the folks who blissfully ignored the handwriting on the wall.
I write these remarks as it is Free Newspaper Week, a trade observation for the thousands of weekly newspapers across this country.
The public agony that big city dailies have put themselves through has trickled down to weeklies such as ourselves. This economy is challenging to say the very least. The difference is the problems that have faced many dailies for the past five years really manifested themselves in the weekly papers last November in a significant fashion.
I think the reason community weeklies have fared better is because of their dedication to local news. As the focus changed over the years for many dailies, community weeklies have kept their eye on what I call the first line of news " the events that can affect you the most immediate, those at home. Community weeklies still seem to be the papers that stay the most connected to their readership and advertisers.
We thank you for your interest and support and hope that we can continue to serve our communities for many years to come.
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