Gov. Baker Highlights Major Redevelopment Project
It took a decade and tens of millions of dollars, but a blighted crime-infested part of Springfield, Massachusetts has been transformed. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is holding it out as an example for the rest of the state.
The area of Springfield’s South End neighborhood once known as the Hollywood District was about as far from the West Coast Hollywood as you could imagine. Ten years ago there was nothing glamorous about it. Apartment buildings were rundown, some were vacant, streets and sidewalks were cracked and dirty. The people who remained locked themselves in their apartments out of fear.
Governor Baker recently walked around what is now called Outing Park, where 23 low-rise brick apartment buildings were renovated, green space and parking lots added, and streets and sidewalks replaced, and marveled at the transformation.
" It really is brick-by-brick,building-by-building,street-by-street over time that gets you there," Baker commented.
People involved in the project said it took years to acquire properties from different owners and to assemble financing that included local, state and federal funds and historic tax credits. Construction was done in three phases beginning in 2012.
The total cost of the project was put at $72 million.
Baker congratulated everyone involved in the project for “a terrific achievement.”
Developer Gordon Pulsifer, president of First Resource Company, said there is an on-site management office, improved street lighting, security cameras, and a staff responsible for maintaining and beautifying the neighborhood.
"It is important to look back and keep history from repeating itself," he said. " What we found here was a sad story. Abandoned buildings, abandoned parking lots and nobody here. But there were people here, they were locked inside their apartments."
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the project was coordinated with other efforts to revitalize the South End including improvements to Emerson Wight Park, the planned rebuilding of a community center, and increased police efforts to combat crime.
Denora Guillermo can attest to how the neighborhood has changed. Ten years ago, her then 11-year-old son Joel was stabbed out in front of their apartment building and left paralyzed. Even after that Guillermo would not leave the neighborhood.
"This is my home. I love this place," she said. " I love it more now. It is so different. It changed a lot, for the better."
Her family’s new apartment was constructed to accommodate Joel who uses a wheelchair.