Master Plan Unveiled For Tornado Rebuild
By Paul Tuthill
Springfield, MA – Eight months after tornadoes tore through Springfield Massachusetts leaving a six mile long path of devastation officials have unveiled a master plan for rebuilding. It includes dozens of specific projects in the tornado impacted neighborhoods, but also contains proposals for fixing some of what was broken in Springfield before the storms hit. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Revealing the outline of the highly anticipated plan before more than 600 people packed into a church social center Tuesday night, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno praised it as a solid strong roadmap to recovery.
The plan was crafted under the direction of a public private partnership created by the mayor with technical help from a team of consultants experienced in disaster recovery projects. It was written after months of study and dozens of meetings that involved thousands of people. The plan appeared to be positively received by the people who attended Tuesday's night's presentation.
Gerald Hayes, the co-chair of Rebuild Springfield, the organization responsible for the plan, said it would take three to five years to implement, and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
The plan calls for revitalizing the city's South End, the commercial and residential district just south of downtown. It proposes rebuilding a traffic intersection at Main and Union streets to create a gateway to the neighborhood, enhanced access to the Connecticut River, creating a restaurant row, and rebuilding the neighborhoods community center, which was flattened by the tornado, at a new location.
Likewise, in the Maple High-Six Corners area, the plan proposes several steps to revitalize the downtrodden neighborhood by rebuilding schools, reusing vacant lots, building new housing and developing small businesses.
In the East Forest Park neighborhood, where building permits to repair homes representing 20 million dollars in construction, have already been issued, the plan calls for replacing thousands of trees and enhancing parks and other open space
Bobbie Hill, of Concordia LLC, the lead consultant employed to help craft the plan, said it is not just about construction projects. The plan includes city wide initiatives to improve Springfield's economy, reform education, improve social services and public safety, and enhance cultural opportunities.
City official say public participation in the production of the plan was unprecedented in Springfield. Since October more than 2 thousand people attended a series of public meetings, hundreds more contributed suggestions through a specially designed website or sent in cards and letters. Nicholas Fyntrilakis, the co-chair of Rebuild Springfield encouraged the public to stay engaged.
A printed copy of the master plan's 12 page executive summary was to be delivered to the doorstep of every home in Springfield Wednesday morning by the Springfield Republican Newspaper. A copy is on line at the Rebuild Springfield website. The full plan, which runs several hundred pages is still being proof read and will be posted on line in about a week.