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Springfield City Council approves allocation of Community Preservation Act funds

The outside of Springfield City Hall on Monday, May 6, 2024.
James Paleologopoulos
The outside of Springfield City Hall on Monday, May 6, 2024.

More than a dozen projects in Springfield, Massachusetts were approved for Community Preservation Act funding this week. City councilors greenlit nearly $3 million in grant funds for efforts to improve parks, restore structures and potentially put new housing on the market.

Fourteen projects vetted and recommended by the Springfield Community Preservation Committee were approved for funding Monday night.

Councilors cast their votes in the affirmative for the CPA funding recommendations during their regular meeting, after hearing about projects big and small that were on track to receive anywhere from $13,000 to $300,000 from the city.

It’s all possible thanks to a vote Springfield residents took in 2016, opting to adopt the state’s Community Preservation Act – making way for a local property tax surcharge that contributes to a fund which, in turn, pays for projects involving historic preservation, open space, and affordable housing. The committee making recommendations was formed about two years later.

Chair Bob McCarroll spoke before presenting the projects.

“We've had CPA for six years - it has brought in, between the local tax levy and the state contribution, nearly $13 million, and I always like to remind the city council that if they had not voted in 2016 to put this on the ballot so the voters of Springfield could decide if they wanted to contribute to CPA, we would not have had this $13 million. So, thank you councilors," he said.

According to the committee’s Facebook page, the group received at least 32 applications during its most recent funding cycle – its highest number of submissions in a single year.

Eight projects accounted for 80 percent of the just over $2,960,000 being voted on.

Recommended to receive the maximum $300,000 that can be allotted were efforts to improve the Van Sickle Softball Diamond in East Springfield, install an elevator at the former Indian Orchard Fire Station, which is being converted into a community space, and restoration work for the historic St. John’s Congregational Church in the Old Hill neighborhood.

Another project recommended for $300,000: the Historic Home Restoration Program. Launched four years ago, it provides grants up to $30,000 to homeowners located in the city’s historic districts and helps locals with restoration work to their home’s exteriors – repair work Ward 4 Councilor Malo Brown says is no small feat for some residents, especially older residents.

Thanking McCarroll for the work that’s been done, he added there can never be enough funding for the program.

“I've seen elderly almost lose their homes based on the repair,” he said. “This is something that is more than more than essential, because a lot of people love the homes and they truly don't understand the repair.”

According to McCarroll’s presentation, the program’s funding has helped at least 38 historic homes in the city with repairs and/or restoration.

Also approving of the project was Councilor At-large Tracye Whitfield, who had questions about what goes into letting locals know they can apply for the program.

McCarroll noted when the program started, there was an initial mass mailing to notify residents. Since then, press releases have gone out, in addition to the program having a web presence.

Whitfield pursued the matter, saying another round of mailers would not only be helpful for newcomers to the city, but residents who are not tech-savvy. McCarroll says the committee would look into it.

“It's easier to justify a mass mailing then a press release or a neighborhood council,”
Whitfield said. “So, if you guys could consider that, I think that will be helpful and a great way to get the information out to the community, but I will support the program.”

Other recommended recipients for $300,000 included redevelopment incentives for a pair of row house addresses on Maple Street. Funds for 174 and 174 Maple St. were sought by the city’s Disaster Recovery and Compliance and Community Development teams, in partnership with the Springfield Office of Housing.

The large, multi-story Gothic-style row houses are in need of a new developer and have seen significant deterioration over the years.

Its neighboring four row houses were also the target of a large CPA grant – a developer, Maple Street Rowhouses LLC, got the council’s nod for $300,000 as it works to convert the buildings into at least 12 units that could become market-rate residential apartments.

A similar case on 60 Byers Street also was approved for incentive funding. An effort to find a new developer has been underway for the Modern-style former home of architect Thurston Munson. The hope is to convert it into multiple units.

“This particular building is indeed, being the recommendation of $300,000, is being funded out of the Community Housing pot, which means that half of the units in the building will have to be available to income eligible people, by the developer.”

The city acquired the property in 2010. It had a developer at one point, who McCarroll says “lost hope” in the project after a fire gutted its interior in 2020. The city later reclaimed it.

Other projects recommended and approved for CPA funding included $250,000 for improvements to Treetop Park off of Thompkins Avenue and $55,000 for Regreen Springfield and its “Invasive Plant Control Program,” which targets invasive knotweed on park and conservation land.

A full list of the recommended projects can be found here.