downtown Springfield

WAMC

With an $82 million renovation of the derelict Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts under way, officials went looking for guidance from transit-oriented development in two Connecticut cities.

A delegation of business and civic leaders from greater Springfield got a possible glimpse of the future when they looked out over the ornate great hall of Union Station in New Haven, Ct. where 11,000 people a day pass through mostly off commuter trains to New York City.

Ridership rose dramatically on Pioneer Valley Transit Authority buses after Massachusetts state-financed service changes took effect earlier this year.  Nationally, it appears public transit is growing more popular.

   Ridership jumped 12 percent in September and 9 percent in October as the state’s second-largest transit authority rolled out the biggest change in fixed-route bus schedules in nearly a decade.  PVTA Administrator Mary MacInnes said she was thrilled by the latest ridership data.

WAMC

The largest health care company in western Massachusetts has launched a new research and development center focused on technology.

Baystate Health has opened an innovation center in downtown Springfield that brings together established companies such as IBM and Dell and start-ups to work with the hospital on creating new technology and products to improve health care.

The Business Improvement District in Springfield, Massachusetts has a new executive director. Chris Russell was recently brought on board to run the downtown association of local businesses that was formed in 1998.  The BID has some new downtown improvement projects.  WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with Russell.

WAMC

A New York City-based developer unveiled plans today for a major renovation to an apartment complex in downtown Springfield.  The project was hailed by city officials as another big step in downtown’s  revitalization.

Officials with the SilverBrick group outlined plans for what they said would be a $6 million renovation of the 280-unit complex that fronts Main Street.  The extensive makeover will include luxury amenities intended to persuade people to pay market-rate rents to live in the urban center.

WAMC

Efforts continue to save an historic community center in Springfield, Massachusetts from foreclosure.  The Dunbar Community Center has been an oasis for inner-city youth for decades, but now faces an uncertain future.

The board of directors of the Dunbar Community Center is continuing to negotiate with its mortgage-holder to avoid foreclosure and the possible closing of the center in Springfield’s Mason Square neighborhood.   A statement from the board this week said no foreclosure sale had been scheduled.

WAMC

A large apartment complex in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts was sold this summer to a New York City-based developer. A renovation plan will be announced this week.  City officials say addressing the dearth of market-rate housing is a key to revitalizing downtown Springfield.

WAMC

A financial institution with roots in Springfield, Massachusetts that go back almost a century is planning to expand its headquarters in the downtown area.  Springfield economic development officials say they are concentrating on this type of small business growth as the fate of a casino that promises to bring thousands of jobs to the city is in the hands of state voters.

             Freedom Credit Union has announced a $2.2 million expansion of its Main Street headquarters, a project that when completed will bring more than 50 jobs to downtown Springfield.

In a city where public safety consistently ranks as the top issue in public opinion polls, a veteran Springfield city councilor caused a buzz this week when he suggested people had become complacent about violence.

In an op-ed published on MassLive.com, Springfield City Councilor-at-large Tim Rooke called on the “silent majority” to speak up and help dismantle the violent drug gangs that he said are causing families to move out of Springfield and hurting businesses.

WAMC

A study released today envisions transforming an area of downtown Springfield, Massachusetts that was rocked by a natural gas explosion two years ago into an incubator for the innovation economy.

     The study suggests a combination of improvements to public parks, sidewalks and streets in concert with investments by private building owners would be needed to transform the roughly three- block area impacted by the November 2012 explosion into an area attractive to entrepreneurs.

An elevated portion of highway in Springfield, Ma.
WAMC

Congress last week, before going on a five-week recess, approved a short-term bill to pay for highway and transit projects.  The temporary funding means the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will seek bids later this month for the rehabilitation of the Interstate 91 viaduct, or elevated highway, which runs through downtown Springfield.  The project is expected to cost $260 million and take three construction seasons to complete.  WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill got an update on the project today from MassDOT Highway Administrator Frank DePoala

WAMC

Plans were announced today for a unity festival this fall in Springfield, Massachusetts. Organizers hope to bring together people from throughout western Massachusetts to highlight the region’s cultural, religious, racial, and age diversity. 

The theme of the festival, scheduled for mid-October, is the promotion of social integration through song.

WAMC

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has announced nearly $84 million in funding for 24 affordable housing projects across the state. New housing in western Massachusetts includes projects in Springfield, Northampton, Greenfield, Williamstown, and Pittsfield.

Governor Patrick said the newly funded projects will create more than 1,300 apartments and over 2,000 construction jobs.  It is part of an economic development strategy that has seen his administration commit more than $1 billion to the creation of affordable housing in the last seven-and-a-half years.

SFD

A new law in Massachusetts sets a uniform standard for rating the severity of natural gas leaks and sets a timetable for making repairs.  Governor Deval Patrick publicized the new law at a ceremonial bill signing today in Springfield -- a city still scarred from a natural gas explosion two years ago.

The bill establishes natural gas leak classification standards. It requires the gas companies to repair the most dangerous leaks immediately and produce plans for the timely replacement of aging pipelines.  Repairs must be prioritized if the leak is detected in a school zone.

Wiki Commons

One of the oldest and largest businesses in western Massachusetts has launched an initiative to help small start-up companies.  MassMutual has announced the creation of the Springfield Venture Fund. It is intended to serve as a catalyst for economic growth in the state’s third largest city.  WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with Nick Fyntrilakis, vice president of  Community Responsibility at MassMutual.

Public access television—famously skewered on Saturday Night Live and elsewhere—is no joke in one western Massachusetts community.

When the newly formed Focus Springfield Community Television officially unveiled a brand new $1 million state-of-the-art programming facility on the ground floor of one of the city’s most historic buildings, dozens of local dignitaries took part in the grand opening.

The region’s Congressman and the city’s mayor helped cut the ceremonial ribbon to open the 7,000- square foot center from which three public access channels originate.

MGM Springfield

When casinos were legalized in Massachusetts three years ago, the mayor of Springfield set off on a high-stakes bid to land a destination resort casino that could transform the city’s economically depressed downtown. Now, potentially within months of a groundbreaking for an $800 million casino, the project is in jeopardy. 

Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy says when he and Mayor Domenic Sarno first talked about the strategy for getting a casino built in the city, they told each other they would remain optimistic and prepared for whatever hurdles came along.

WAMC

An attorney and veteran of several municipal boards and commissions has been tapped to head the parking authority in Springfield, Massachusetts. The appointment comes as the city is on the verge of a parking space crunch. 

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced Friday the selection of Mary McNally as the new executive director of the Springfield Parking Authority.  He called her “eminently qualified” and said the appointment is part of a new direction at the authority.

WAMC

The University of Massachusetts opened its first satellite campus today.  The university is inviting people to sign up for classes that  start later this year in downtown Springfield.

University and city officials took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday -- with about 200 people looking on -- to mark the formal opening of the UMass Center at Springfield. 

Wikimedia Commons

With the warm weather months ahead the city of Springfield, Massachusetts is looking to regulate food trucks and similar roadside vendors.  It is an issue many municipalities dealt with years ago, but it has so far eluded the state’s third-largest city.

   City councilors in Springfield are working on the final details of an ordinance that would replace an archaic law and unenforceable rules that currently apply to food trucks and similar vendors. City Councilor Tom Ashe said he is optimistic the issue will finally be resolved after years of discussion and setbacks

       Stronger regulations are being put on pawn shops and junk dealers in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts in an effort to help police investigations into house breaks and stolen goods. Police say the new rules should help people throughout New England eventually recover stolen expensive jewelry and family heirlooms.

WAMC

A new Massachusetts cultural district has been launched in Springfield.  Advocates for the district believe it will help boost tourism, promote more art and music programs, and preserve historic buildings.

The “Springfield Central Cultural District” is an area of the city’s downtown that is home to museums, live performance venues, art galleries and historic buildings.  It is the 19th cultural district recognized by the state – a designation not easy to come by, according to Anita Walker, executive director of the state cultural council.

MGM Springfield

The lengthy process to bring casino gambling to Massachusetts has entered a final phase. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will spend the next few months carefully evaluating projects before coming to a decision on issuing licenses.  Supporters of the MGM casino project in Springfield are already anticipating a groundbreaking.

MGM Resorts International is the only applicant for the lone casino license in western Massachusetts, but Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby says the five-member commission is not obligated to award the license to MGM.

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The city of Springfield, Massachusetts is continuing preservation efforts on one of the oldest church buildings in New England, while looking to find a place for the property in the plans for downtown urban renewal.

Bids are being solicited by the city of Springfield for repairs to historic Old First Church, a white wood framed building in Court Square in the heart of the city’s downtown.  Patrick Sullivan, the city’s director of buildings management, said it’s estimated the church needs $100,000 in work to repair damage caused by the 2011 tornado.

Boston Public Library

A complex of municipal buildings in Springfield, Massachusetts is 100 years old.  Anniversary festivities are taking place this weekend

A holiday lighting ceremony, concerts, tours and displays of old photographs and memorabilia will mark the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the civic landmarks collectively known as the Municipal Group. It consists of two Greek Revival-style buildings made of limestone and marble that house Springfield City Hall and Symphony Hall.  Between the two is a 300-foot Italian Campanile clock tower.

An elevated portion of highway in Springfield, Ma.
WAMC

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced funding today for a massive transportation project in western Massachusetts.

   Governor Deval Patrick announced $200 million will be spent to replace deteriorating concrete decks on the elevated section of Interstate 91 in downtown Springfield while simultaneously studying the possibility of depressing a portion of the highway to street level or below.

   Patrick announced the project during a speech at a lunch hosted by the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield.

A study commissioned for the city of Springfield, Massachusetts finds strong potential for new market-rate housing in the downtown area where a casino is proposed.  But housing developers say high costs and available financing are challenges.

Wikimedia Commons

The Massachusetts Cultural Council has approved the creation of a cultural district in Springfield. Advocates for the district believe it will help rebrand downtown Springfield.

The cultural district designation will help promote attractions such as the Springfield Museums and Symphony Hall and encourage the growth of art and music festivals and the so-called creative economy. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said there are huge benefits to having an official state-recognized cultural district in the heart of the city.

MGM Springfield

A decision on whether MGM Resorts International is suitable to hold a casino license in Massachusetts is expected to be made by gaming industry regulators in the next two months.  Passing the mandatory background investigation in Massachusetts is proving to be no easy feat.

       When casino industry giant Caesars Entertainment, which has stakes in more than 50 casino operations in the United States and seven countries, was abruptly dropped  two weeks ago    as the operator of a proposed Boston casino, it rang alarm bells in Springfield.

The city of Springfield, Massachusetts has been awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to combat street crime in a high poverty neighborhood.

   Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno on Monday announced the focus of the grant will be on the city’s South End neighborhood, which has been the target of urban renewal efforts for decades and was the subject of a 2008 federal study on concentrated poverty in America.

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