Officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have approved plans by the city of Springfield, Massachusetts to spend $13 million on redeveloping an impoverished area of the city damaged by June 1,2011 tornado.
Damaged and blighted buildings will be torn down, streets and sidewalks repaved, new houses built, a park and other public properties improved in Maple High-Six Corners, a low income neighborhood still struggling to recover from the historic 2011 storm.
Springfield Housing Director Gerry McCafferty says a lot of planning went into securing the federal tornado recovery funds and the final approval to spend the money. Bids will now be solicited to do the actual work.
" Lots of this is construction, we are looking to have things ready to go as soon as the thaw happens."
The work includes construction of fifteen new single-family homes. The new Brookings Elementary School is part of the plan. The city will purchase a former parochial school for use as a new public middle school. Nathan Bill Park will be refurbished. In addition to repairing damaged streets and sidewalks some streets and intersections will be reconfigured to improve traffic flow.
Most of the work will be concentrated along the so-called Central Street corridor where a number of buildings were left boarded-up and vacant after the storm.
Tornado recovery in the Maple High-Six Corners neighborhood has lagged behind other parts of the city because property-owners lacked sufficient private insurance coverage. The federal block grant awarded to the city is intended to help distressed areas.
" It turns into the silver lining. It really will transform that neighborhood. We hope to take it out of the category of distressed," said McCafferty.
Details of the tornado recovery project were announced in August by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal.
" It is really ambitious."
The plan includes elements taken from the Rebuild Springfield Master Tornado Recovery Plan, which was published six months after the tornado and was the product of considerable public input. Jim Bartlett, and other neighborhood residents, attended three public hearings to fine- tune the plan for spending the federal money.
" We are excited. We've worked for a couple of years on this."
The $13 million must be spent in two years. HUD allocated an additional $9 million for a second phase of recovery work. Plans for that are still being formulated.