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Property Takings For Long-Awaited Disaster Recovery Project OKed

artists' rendering of Central Street in Springfield
City of Springfield
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    Eight years after a tornado roared through a low-income neighborhood in Springfield, Massachusetts, construction is expected to start this summer on a key improvement project.

          The $3 million reconstruction of the Central Street corridor through the heart of the Maple High-Six Corners neighborhood includes realigning and repaving streets, and installing new sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic signals, and landscaping. 

         City Councilor Melvin Edwards, who represents the neighborhood, said he is excited to see the project about to become reality.

  " There is a lot of conversation and complaint in the city about the lack of investment in the neighborhoods. This is an excellent example of the continued investment in the Six Corners-Maple High neighborhood and the areas adjoining Old Hill," said Edwards.

    Federal disaster recovery funds will pay for all the work.

    In the years following the tornado, many new homes have been built along Central Street, the brand new Brookings Elementary school opened, a developer announced plans to put housing at the former Brookings school, and a $14 million early childhood education center is being constructed.

        Improvements to the infrastructure along the Central Street corridor have taken years to be realized because the plans involved taking some private properties and using some public parkland.

  The City Council approved some of the first eminent domain takings in 2016 and just this month authorized the final property takings.   The major acquisitions, which totaled more than $500,000, were an automotive business, a vacant store that once housed a poultry business, and a brick duplex house.

  " These properties were taken through negotiations, and I hope the owners are happy with the amounts that were agreed to," said Edwards.

   Now the tenants must be relocated and the buildings torn down.

  " We are at the goal line," said  Springfield DPW Director Chris Cignoli.  He hopes the long-awaited road project can begin in July.

    "It will just make flow through the area just more efficient," said Cignoli.  He said during times when students are arriving or being dismissed at the Brookings school traffic in the area gets "boxed in."

    "The paving is not in great shape, so there is going to be a lot of paving to make those roads a lot better to travel on," said Cignoli.

    The project includes building a new entrance to Ruth Elizabeth Park.  Additionally, the city is planning a $450,000 renovation of the park.

     Federal funds, announced by Congressman Richard Neal, will pay for the park project.

    "Springfield's park system is second-to-none," said Neal. "The city has extraordinary open space and recreational areas and that money is a good investment."

     One of the upgrades planned at Ruth Elizabeth Park will make walking trails accessible to people with disabilities.

  

  

  

 

 

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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