By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – If timing is everything, then the city of Springfield timed its presentation on the status of economic development perfectly as in the audience was the delegation from Changchun Railway Vehicles Company, which has announced the city is in the running as a site for its new U.S. factory.
What they heard as well as several hundred civic and business leaders was that projects that ranged from private businesses such as Luxe Burger Bar, public infrastructure such as the Mary Dryden Veteran’s Memorial School to nonprofit entities such as the Caring Health Center have pumped into the city $612.6 million in the past two years.
Within the next three years, there is anticipated $1.7 billion in new private and public development, according to Kevin Kennedy, the city’s chief development officer.
Totaled, that means there are $1.8 billion in private investments in the city and $729.6 million in public dollars.
“The stars are aligning for the city of Springfield,” Mayor Domenic Sarno said while holding a gift from the Chinese group, a model of one of the rail cars they manufacture.
The meeting was conducted at CityStage and was in partnership with the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield.
After reviewing work that has been completed, Kennedy then presented the projects that will be started this year. This included the second phase of improvements in the South End, the mercy Medical Building; Union Station; the new studios of New England Public radio; repairs to Interstate 91; a new Hampton Inn; Outing park housing; the development of the former Indian Motocycle factory building and the former Mason Square Fire station; the new science wing at Central High School; Boston Road improvement; the Pine Point Library; the Liberty height/Mary Troy Park;’ the Elias Brookings School;’ “Q” restaurant; reconstruction of Harkness and Sumner Avenue; Cottage Street Solar farm; Springfield Plaza improvements; Sister Caritas Center expansion; expansion of Balise Hyundai; the new South End Community Center; the ECOS center; blunt Park Senior center; the new Police department building; market rate apartments at 195 State Street; the Gunn Block; the supermarket planned for State St.; the former Rivers Inn location; the new Cathedral High School; and 31 Elm St.
Kennedy did include in that list two developments, which are anticipated to start but unlike the others, are not yet legal realities. One was the MGM Springfield casino complex and the other was the Palmer Repaving biomass plant. The casino is awaiting licensing from the state, while the biomass plant is in Land Court at this time.
With those two businesses to the list, Kennedy said would be $1.7 billion of projects that will be started or concluded within the next three years.
He also noted the city has $22.9 million in projects due to the June 1, 2011 tornado still pending.
Since 2010, the city has made $153 million in tax incentives to businesses that has resulted in 921 new jobs, Kennedy said. A study is underway, he noted, on the redevelopment of the area that was affected by the gas explosion in November 2012.
He added the future growth is expected to come out of the recently designated Central Cultural District and the proposed cultural district around the Springfield Armory.
Kennedy said, “That’s a phenomenal number [of developments] for a medium-sized American city like Springfield.”