| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – In anticipation of the September 2018 opening of MGM Springfield, city and MGM officials announced a nearly $7 million effort to “refresh” downtown.
Mayor Domenic Sarno said the goal was to make the downtown clean safe and aesthetically pleasing prior to the casino’s opening.
The city plans to spend $1.4 million with MGM Springfield contributing $5.5 million. The casino’s part of the budget is part of its obligation as described by the Host Community Agreement.
The “refreshing” will include sidewalk repairs, street tree plantings, intersection/crosswalk improvements and enhancements to the rail road underpasses along Main Street, Dwight Street and Chestnut Street on the city’s side. The most expensive improvements will be $397,000 spend in mill and overlay work on Main Street and $400,000 for the development and installation of a way finding system – a series of signs giving walking directions to various places of interest and services downtown.
Utility upgrades, traffic signal and intersection improvements as well as road reconstruction and enhancements for pedestrians and bicycle riders will be among MGM’s efforts. MGM Springfield will notify residents where and when travel disruptions may occur.
“This is meat and potatoes stuff. It may not be sexy,” Sarno said. Kevin Kennedy, the city’s chief development officer, called the plans “polishing our downtown … it’s critical that we do this and it makes common sense.”
Christopher Cignoli, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, said some of the work has already started and he anticipated the projects would be completed by next spring.
Kennedy noted the renovations of the I-91 viaduct are scheduled to be finished well before the casino’s opening next year. He said “full and beneficial use” of the viaduct should be reached in March or April 2018.
Sarno also discussed improvement plans to Riverfront Park are moving forward. The city will apply for a state PARC grant. The city has allocated $500,000 for the renovations, while MGM Springfield has set aside $1 million as part of the Host Community Agreement.
The plan would add new park amenities, a zero entry fountain, an improved festival field and landscape improvements, a proposed 9/11 Memorial. There would be also plantings to help restore the look of the park, which was damaged by the June 1, 2011