Citing public safety concerns, the city of Springfield, Massachusetts will pass up a redevelopment opportunity and demolish an abandoned industrial building damaged by fire.
Following a weekend arson fire, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced he had ordered the demolition of a former vocational training complex rather than let it remain a blight on the neighborhood and a safety risk.
"I know there was potential development there, but I have ordered that to be (demolished) out of respect to the neighborhood and to public safety," Sarno said.
Until it closed in 2013, the Massachusetts Career Development Institute operated for 40 years in a 3 acre campus of industrial buildings in the Mason Square neighborhood. A fire in 2016 damaged part of the property. After a lengthy legal process, the city had that section of the complex demolished four months ago.
Fire Commissioner Bernard Calvi said the recent fire is believed to have been started by a group of nine or 10 youths from the neighborhood who got inside the building.
"That is a death trap in there," said Calvi. "It is unsafe. It is unsafe to go into that building."
He said it was fortunate the two-alarm fire did not spread to houses in the densely populated neighborhood.
"We were able to get the fire stopped in short order the other night, but we were fortunate to be able to do that with the high winds." Calvi said. "If the winds were coming from a different direction, we would be hard pressed to catch it before it got out to Wilbraham Road."
Sarno said he now regrets not razing the entire complex last year.
"My head, heart, and guts said from the beginning it should come down," Sarno said.
The city has received inquiries about redeveloping the building, said Tim Sheehan, the city’s chief development officer. A tour of the property for prospective buyers had even been scheduled.
"It should be clear the redevelopment of this was not something that was going to be instantaneous," Sheehan said. He estimated it would likely take 2-3 years to get a project going.
" To leave that out in the neighborhood that long, it is a blighting issue and now a public safety issue," he said.
The city will now seek bids for demolition. An earlier estimate put the cost of demolition and clearing the site of debris at $3 million.
The mayor’s office said additional fencing has gone up at the site to try to keep trespassers away.