A city official credited with guiding the successful development of several major projects in Springfield, Massachusetts is planning to retire this summer.
When Kevin Kennedy took the job of Chief Development Officer in 2011, he and Mayor Domenic Sarno agreed to set their sights high to try to bring the city back from both the devastating tornado earlier that year and the state finance control board imposed belt-tightening that had pared city services.
"Some of the things we accomplished here were nothing short of phenomenal to be honest with you," Kennedy said his retirement plans were made public at a City Hall announcement.
During the almost eight years Kennedy has been overseeing economic development, more than $4 billion in private and public money has been spent, according to his office. Projects that were started and finished include the MGM casino, Union Station, the CRRC railcar factory and the development of a total of 400 market-rate apartments in downtown Springfield.
"If it was a family you would say they are all equal," said Kennedy. " You have to look at them collectively. They all had a reason to happen."
Kennedy said “fixing” Springfield’s downtown was a priority, despite criticism from some quarters that the city’s neighborhoods were being neglected.
"An urban area's reputation is based on what happens in the downtown, the central business district. Downtown is a neighborhood, people live here," said Kennedy. "Now, you have a transportation center and major outside investment and market- rate housing, you've got new policing. Everything has changed dramatically. We even changed the lighting."
An initiative that Kennedy said is among those he is most proud of is a program that offered financial incentives for the purchase and redevelopment of closed neighborhood fire stations. Three former firehouses have been redeveloped with work now beginning on a fourth, Kennedy said.
A cancer survivor, Kennedy, 67, said his decision to retire stems from a desire to spend more time with his family, especially his grandchildren.
"I feel great and I am really looking forward to the summer to tell you the truth," said Kennedy.
Kennedy came to City Hall in 1986 as Chief of Staff for then-Mayor Richard Neal. When Neal went to Congress in 1989, Kennedy joined his staff and was a senior aide for 22 years.
MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis, who attended Kennedy’s retirement announcement at City Hall, credited him with driving a hard bargain over the casino development agreement.
" He was tenacious in cutting a really aggressive deal for the city and I give him a lot of credit for it," said Mathis.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said Kennedy’s retirement is “bitter sweet.”
" I am very grateful to him," said Sarno. " Don't be surpised if I don't call on him to bird-dog a project or two."
Sarno said he will name a successor “in the very near future.”