| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – Economic development does have a second chapter in the city after the period in which MGM Springfield, Union Station and CRRC dominated the attention of residents.
A capacity audience on March 19 filled the center court at the Basketball Hall of Fame for a presentation on the next round of economic development issues in the city.
Since March 2018, the projects described at the meeting reflect a $400.4 million investment in the city.
MGM also reported on its progress. MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis said the casino received favorable press coverage in outlets across the nation.
From Aug. 24, 2018, to Feb. 28, 2019, 2.7 million visitors from all 50 states have come to the casino.
Since the casino opened there has been a 68 percent increase in location option room occupancy tax and a 22 percent increase in local option sales tax on meals, Mathis reported.
The projects include:
• CRRC plans a $4 million construction project of a new 42,500 square foot warehouse.
• Plans for the construction and financing of a new Convention Center Garage being studied – an estimated $40 million project
• The location of the former York Street jail is now the subject of several development projects. The York Street Pump station, a $100 million project, will start construction this spring, while the Springfield Redevelopment Authority is in negotiations for the Pioneer Valley Hotel Group for a “nationally branded hotel with indoor rock climbing and skydiving center.” If the negotiations are successful, the construction could start next year.
• The new headquarters for Wayfinders has started at the site of the former Peter Pan Bus building, a $16.8 million facility.
• A new CVS pharmacy will be built at the corer of Main and Union streets in the South End, a $2 million project, this year with the store opening in the fall.
• The owners of Tower Square will be spending an estimated $27 million on upgrades and renovations to the hotel, which will be rebranded as a Marriott Hotel.
• The construction of the Springfield Performing Arts Academy continues in the State Street building that was once a Masonic Temple. The cost of the project is $14 million.
• The Springfield Culinary & Nutrition Center on Cadwell Drive will open next month. It’s a 58,000 square foot facility to produce food for school lunch programs in Springfield and other communities. The cost of the project is $21 million.
• The former Registry of Motor Vehicles building on Liberty Street will be a new Cumberland Farms store. The cost is $3 million.
• The Brightwood/Lincoln School will be rebuilt with the bid going out this August and the opening planned for the estimated $70.2 million facility scheduled for August 2021.
• The Big Y distribution center expansion will cost $46 million and will add 232,000 square feet of space. The opening is sometime this year.
• MassMutual is expected to add 1,500 employees in and expansion that will cost $50 million.
• The Educare Springfield School in the Old Hill neighborhood broke ground last year and is expected to be opening in September. It is a $14 million project.
• The conversion of the historic Willy’s Overland building on Chestnut Street into 60 market-rate studio and one and two bedroom apartments will begin ion April and is expected to be a 12-month project with a price tag of $13.8 million.
• Baystate Medical has a total of $92.2 million for a variety of projects.
• The Springfield Innovation Center has opened its $7 million headquarters on Bridge Street.
• The Paramount Theater block is about to undergo an estimated $41 million renovation and restoration. The preservation work on the roof and façade is to begin sometime this year.
• The redevelopment of the historic Court Square building into residential and retail use is close to having its financing set for the $56 million project.
• The additional of 60 new affordable apartments at the Indian Motocycle building is a $25 million investment that should be started this July and completed in the fall of 2020.
• Chestnut Towers announced last year it will spend $87 million to renovate 489 affordable housing units.
• The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame also noted its recent renovations that cost $23 million, raised privately. No city, state or federal funds were used. Inside exhibits have been updated and the iconic dome is being rebuilt.
• The new East Forest Park Library will be completed this year at a cost of $9.5 million.
• Pride Stores is adding two new locations: one on State Street and another on Wilbraham Road with a combined cost of $4 million. Both stores will open this year.
• The Wellspring Greenhouse in Indian Orchard opened last year and is growing produce for area schools and supermarkets – a $900,000 project.
• Pynchon Park, a $4 million renovation of the space on Dwight Street will start in May and be completed in June 2020.
• The renovation of Stearns Square and Duryea Way will be completed this spring with a cost of $1.8 million.
• The improvements to Riverfront Park with the 9/11 Memorial with be completed in June with a cost of $2.8 million.
• Replacing the culvert in Forest Park under the main greeting road will start this spring with a cost of $3.5 million.
• The restoration of Ruth Elizabeth Park in the Maple High-Six Corners neighborhood will be started in July at a coat of $450,000.
• The redesign of the “X” intersection in Forest Park, an $11.5 million project, is expected to start in the fall of 2021 and be completed in the winter of 2022.
• The Six Corners Roundabout should start next month and be completed with a budget of $4.6 million.
• The Central Street alignment will start in July and be completed next spring at a cost of $5.4 million.
• The presentation also listed activities and features that have been started since the last report such as downtown signage to assist with tourism; the Valley Bike program that will reopen next month; the Springfield Central Cultural District’s Fresh Paint mural program this June; the growth of the downtown dining district.
Kevin Kennedy, the city’s Chief Development Officer, said that projects that will be addressed in the future include a new Hampden County Courthouse, a new police headquarters, additional hotel development, infrastructure improvements to Symphony Hall and City Stage and the expansion of Balise Automotive in the South End.