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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

UMass

The University of Massachusetts is poised to establish a first-ever satellite campus. It would be located in downtown Springfield.  Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has lobbied for several years to get a UMass campus in the city.   WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke earlier this week with the Chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees, Henry Thomas, who is Springfield resident.

Years before a casino might open in downtown Springfield Massachusetts construction on new hotels is beginning.   The people who sell the city as a tourist destination say it is a positive development.

 A new 100 -room hotel is expected to open in downtown Springfield by the end of this year, and a groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled next week for a new six- story hotel that will also have nearly 100 guest rooms when it opens in about a year.

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