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Riverfront site proposed for a new courthouse in Springfield

Riverfront_development_North_End.jpg
Paul Tuthill
/
WAMC
This depicts a proposed $500 million development on the Connecticut Riverfront in the North End of Springfield, Massachusetts with a new four-story state courthouse shown on the left and an 11-story apartment building and marina to the right.

Project would include a high-rise apartment building, marina

The city of Springfield is pitching a riverfront location for a new Massachusetts state courthouse.

A $500 million development on the Connecticut Riverfront in Springfield’s North End that would include a new state courthouse, an 11-story apartment building, and a marina with restaurants and shops was unveiled Thursday by developer Peter Picknelly.

“We think we have the ideal location for a new courthouse in Springfield,” Picknelly said.

The state is looking at the feasibility of replacing the 50-year-old Roderick Ireland Courthouse in downtown Springfield – a building that has been plagued by water and sewerage leaks, broken down mechanical systems, and blamed for serious health problems suffered by dozens of workers there over the last decade or more.

Building a state courthouse on the riverfront in the North End would provide a similar economic catalyst as the Basketball Hall of Fame has done along the river in Springfield’s South End, said Picknelly.

“We want to see that same kind of activity north of the Memorial Bridge,” he said. “We think this project does exactly that.”

The project pitched by Picknelly would happen on roughly 14.5 acres of riverfront property that his company OPAL Real Estate currently owns “or controls.” It is mostly undeveloped woods and open space.

Mayor Domenic Sarno enthusiastically endorsed the proposed development, describing it as “visionary.”

“Pardon the water pun, but we want to make a big splash,” Sarno said.

The state Trial Court and the Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) are looking at either extensive renovations to the Springfield courthouse that would include replacing all the plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems – renovations projected to cost at least $90 million – or constructing a new building that is expected to cost more than $200 million.

“A spectacular new state-of-the-art courthouse is what our residents of Springfield and western Massachusetts and the Trial Court employees deserve,” Sarno said.

If the decision is made to build a new courthouse, the project would have to follow a competitive process including site selection. Having a location ready to build on gives Springfield a big leg up, said the city’s Director of Planning and Economic Development Tim Sheehan.

“To be able to be two significant steps ahead in the process -- to have identified a site and having control of the site and to be able to immediately advance into permitting relative to the site – is going to be a huge advantage,” he said.

Under the settlement to a lawsuit brought against the state earlier this year by a group of current and former workers at the Springfield courthouse, the feasibility study for a new courthouse is to be completed by June 2023.

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.