| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – “Springfield is rising” was the title of a presentation made to local business leaders and city officials had investment figures to prove the claim.
In 2014, the city of Springfield had $2.7 billion in both private and public economic development since 2011. Today, city officials say that amount has risen to $3.3 billion since 2011, an increase of 16 percent since December 2014.
That figure was the basis of a presentation on Nov. 22 by both city officials and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce that was attended by local businesspeople and others at CityStage.
Kevin Kennedy, the city’s chief development officer reeled of a long list of projects and developments that are re-shaping the city. Naturally among those are the three that have dominated headlines for the last two years: MGM Springfield, CRRC MA USA and Union Station.
Kennedy added a number of other developments, including Falvey Linen whose $7 million facility has yielded 100 jobs, the solar energy project at Smith & Wesson, the redevelopment of apartments in the North End neighborhood and the reinvention of professional hockey in the region with The Thunderbirds. The new Balise Hyundai dealership represents a $7.5 million investment and created 80 new jobs.
The work on the Interstate 91 viaduct is five to six months ahead of schedule, Kennedy said. He added “if the winter is reasonable,” the renovation of the span could be finished in 2017.
Other improvements since 2014 include the renovation of downtown apartments into Silverbrick Lofts, the creations of Make It Springfield, the construction of the Innovation Center to be completed in February and a Department of Housing and Urban Development loan fund to assist in the rebuilding of a dining district. Super Brush undertook a $3 million expansion.
Currently under construction is the Springfield Technical Community College’s Student Learning Center, which is a $50 million project that should be completed in 2018.
Also completed in 2018 will be 60 new rental units at the former Indian Motocycle Building in Mason Square, a project that includes the redevelopment of the closed fire station there.
Kennedy included the controversial Palmer Renewable Energy project in the mix, saying it would yield 60 full time jobs when completed and “millions in taxes” to the city.
Kennedy also noted the creation of the Central Cultural District, whose components such as the Springfield Museums, the Springfield Symphony and CityStage among others bring in 2.7 million people annually and $37 million in revenue.
For 2017, Kennedy said the city is looking for a sponsor for a regional bicycle-sharing program. “Wayfinding” signs to make the downtown more walkable should be installed in the fall of 2017. In about three weeks, the design will be unveiled, he added, for the design of a 9/11 Memorial in Riverfront Park. The new Dr. Seuss Museum is slated to open in 2017. The Raymond Jordan Senior Center in Blunt Park is scheduled to open in 2017.
In January 2018, the commuter rail service developed by the state of Connecticut will link Springfield with Hartford and New Haven, CT, Kennedy said, providing more rail options. The Basketball Hall of Fame will undertake a $20 million renovation also in 2018. The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority is planning to building a $55.7 million operational facility on Cottage Street in 2018. Pope Francis High School is expected to open in 2018.
Among the opportunities for development include the 31 Elm St. building at Court Square that MGM Springfield is looking at for the location of some of the market-rate apartments it must build, Kennedy said. He added the historic paramount Theater is in “the early stages” of a planned renovation and a study is underway about the Civic Center garage.
The developments are not limited to the city’s downtown, Kennedy noted. He spoke of the reconstruction of Central Street in the Maple High Six Corners neighborhood, which he believes will begin in the fall of 2017. Also in that neighborhood is a redesign of the rotary at Six Corners, he added.
Forest Park is will also be redesigned as will the Roosevelt Avenue - Island Pond Road intersection.
With all of these developments, Kennedy said, “The tax base is growing.”