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Springfield awards $12.8 million more in ARPA funds

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Photo by Paul Tuthill
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WAMC
The New North Citizens Council plans to build a $15 million building, depicted here, that will have community meeting spaces, a medical clinic and the headquarters of the social services agency

Small businesses, non profits, neighborhood councils the main beneficiaries

The city of Springfield, Massachusetts is doling out more money from its allotment of the American Rescue Plan Act fund.

Almost $13 million will go to small businesses, non-profits, and for economic development projects in downtown Springfield. It is the fourth – and so far largest – round of grants from the city’s ARPA pot of $123 million.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno described the funding assignments as “transformative.”

“Giving back to the community, making our communities stronger, celebrating the beautiful mosaic of the city of Springfield,” Sarno said, adding “There is more to come.”

The largest single award, $2.5 million, will help finance the construction of the first-ever community center in the city’s predominately Latino North End neighborhood.

A groundbreaking for the $15 million building is planned in June. It will house community meeting spaces, a medical clinic, and be the new headquarters of the New North Citizens Council, said Jose Claudio, the organization’s Chief Operations Officer.

“We are not only a neighborhood organization, we are an agency with 102 employees who help people throughout Hampden County and ( Hampshire and Franklin counties), so it is important we bring all our team together,” explained Claudio. He said the new building will be “a one-stop shop.”

Two other non-profits receiving ARPA funds from the city in this most recent round are the JC Williams Community Center with $1.6 million and the Springfield Boys & Girls Club, getting $1.5 million.

$1 million in ARPA funds is going to Big Y Foods to finance development of what the city administration described as a full-service grocery store in Tower Square – the Main Street office complex and shopping center that is now largely devoid of retailers. It will be the first grocery store in downtown Springfield in decades, said Sarno.

“That is a neighborhood downtown now and it has been a food desert,” Sarno said. “We are changing the face of our neighborhoods and that includes the downtown,”

$2.4 million has been awarded for the redevelopment of a multi-building complex on Worthington Street – the city’s so-called “restaurant row.” And, $1 million is being given to a La Quinta hotel in downtown Springfield to boost the city’s hospitality industry.

The economic development funding is “sweeping” said Tim Sheehan, the city’s chief development officer.

“The awards, I am so proud to say, reflect not the priorities we created at City Hall, but the priorities we heard from the people,” Sheehan said.

Sarno announced that he is giving $100,000 in ARPA funds to each of the city’s 18 neighborhood councils. City Councilor Melvin Edwards, who is also the longtime president of the Maple High/Six Corners Neighborhood Council, said for these non-profits it is a “huge” sum.

“Now, I get to go back to my community and listen to my neighbors and hear their ideas with something actually in my hand for us to actually do something, so I am really really appreciative,” Edwards said.

One of the 14 small businesses selected to receive cash from the city’s APRA account in this latest funding round is the SouLao’d Kitchen. Lena Redd, a first generation Laotian-American, opened the Asian American soul food fusion restaurant on Page Blvd in East Springfield just months before the start of the pandemic and it has been a struggle to keep it going.

“Literally, this week I was sitting there saying ‘How are we going to make it? How are we going to do this?’,” she said.

Then, the phone call came from the mayor’s office telling her she had been selected to receive $75,000.

“We thank God,” Redd said. “We are very very optimistic about the opportunities we have to thrive in our community and stay here for the long haul.”

The city has now allocated a total just over $17 million in ARPA funds to small businesses, non-profits and neighborhood councils.

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.