Dozens of blighted buildings have been torn down in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts in the last 18 months since the city council approved a $2 million demolition bond. The city’s efforts at neighborhood revitalization were highlighted at on e such demolition project today.
The sound of a large backhoe ripping apart a boarded up duplex house on Hancock Street was music to the ears of Ethel Hughery, who lives across the street, and said the vacant structure was not just an eyesore, but a target for vandals and a magnet for vagrants.
" I think it is a great thing the mayor has taken the initiative to tear it down because it looked horrible," she said over the noise of the demolition going on across the street.
The property at 489 Hancock Street in the city’s Six Corners-Maple High neighborhood was condemned by the city’s Inspectional Services Division in 2015. There was evidence the vacant building was being used by squatters. The copper pipes had been ripped out of the walls. The windows and doors were broken, according to David Cotter, the city’s deputy director of code enforcement.
"This was a property that we had to come to several times to make sure it was boarded up. There were needles and drug contraband all over the place," said Cotter. " The neighbors were very happy when they found out it was going to be taken down."
Springfield Police Department Spokesman Srgt. John Delaney said officers responded to dozens of calls reporting suspicious activity at the address and he predicted that crime in the neighborhood would go down dramatically once the vacant house is leveled.
" It was a hazard for the community. Where there is blight there is crime," said Delaney.
After the rubble of the demolished building is carted away, the vacant lot will be cordoned off to discourage illegal dumping.
Officials said the demolition will leave three buildable house lots. Mayor Domenic Sarno said his preference would be to have houses built there.
Sarno pointed out the neighborhood, which sustained heavy damage from the 2011 tornado, has undergone a transformation. Within sight of Tuesday’s demolition project is a brand new $35 million neighborhood elementary school. Along Central Street, the neighborhood’s main corridor, there are new one and two-family houses that replaced the tornado-damaged four-story brick apartment buildings.
" We want to make sure we cut down density here in the city of Springfield and improve quality of life," said Sarno.
Anti-poverty activists have complained that while the city has been aggressive in getting rid of blighted properties there remains a shortage of affordable rental housing.
Sarno said the city will seek to recoup the cost of demolishing the Hancock Street building by putting a lien on the property.
The cost of the demolition, including asbestos abatement, is $33,750, according to the mayor’s office.