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City expected to purchase former Friendly's to ease parking, school bus congestion at Sumner Ave. School

This former Friendly's restaurant on Sumner Avenue in Springfield, Massachusetts closed in 2018.  The city is proposing to buy it to permanently solve a parking squeeze at the adjacent Sumner Avenue School.
Paul Tuthill
/
WAMC
This former Friendly's restaurant on Sumner Avenue in Springfield, Massachusetts closed in 2018. The city is proposing to buy it to permanently solve a parking squeeze at the adjacent Sumner Avenue School.

Forest Park neighborhood council endorses the proposal

The City Council in Springfield, Massachusetts is expected to vote tonight to authorize the purchase of a former Friendly’s restaurant to avert a potential traffic nightmare on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares.

At a brief hearing earlier on Monday, the City Council’s Public Safety Committee gave a favorable recommendation to having the city spend $1.125 million to purchase the former Friendly’s on Sumner Avenue where the parking lot has been used for decades by the adjacent Sumner Avenue School.

Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick said continued use of the former restaurant property, which is now owned by a Boston-based realty company, is needed for overflow parking for school staff as well as a place for buses to queue up to drop-off and pick up children.

“This will help us tremendously because we can move some cars off the street and try to get the buses off the street and make is safer for everyone, Warwick said.

When an addition was built at the school in the 1990s more parking spaces were not included. Friendly’s allowed the school the use of 40 parking spaces at no charge to the city. The restaurant was closed in 2018. The current property owner is leasing parking to the city on a month-to-month basis.

Warwick said that arrangement could end if the property is sold again, or leased to a new tenant.

“You have to a way of getting buses and cars off the street so we can have an orderly arrival and dismissal and nobody gets hurt and also for the neighborhood there is a proper traffic flow,” Warwick sia.d

At a hearing last month, City Councilors said the administration’s plan to purchase the former Friendly’s is a no-brainer. But Councilor Victor Davila, the chair of Public Safety, said he wanted neighborhood residents to weigh-in.

He said the Forest Park Civic Association met recently to hear about the proposal and now supports it.

“They’re excited about the project,” Davila said.

Davila urged the school officials not to demolish the restaurant building that he described as a “neighborhood landmark.”

Warwick said the school department will find a use for the 4,700 square-foot building.

“Down the road we could use the building for possibly a virtual school or for some preschool classrooms,” Warwick said.

He said the efficient and effective use of the parking lot is the school department’s only priority with the property.

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.