On the Fates of Union House Hotel and Cathedral High

Would a casino in the South End mean the end of the former Union House Hotel?

As Pete Goonan reports in today’s Republican, the city’s Historical Commission is asking MGM to preserve the building, at the corner of Main and Bliss, if its casino application is approved.

“We feel it is an important enough building, and it looks like it could be incorporated in some way to their design without knocking it down,” Ralph Slate, who chairs the commission, told Goonan.

But the odds don’t sound good for the old hotel; while the casino developer and the commission are still talking, an MGM spokeswoman told the paper that the building’s size “makes it impossible for us to both build a new project for Springfield’s future, while fully preserving this building’s past.”

Commission members are happy with other parts of MGM’s plans that do protect historically significant properties, Goonan reported.

In other news, and in case you missed it, the Reminder’s Mike Dobbs reports here on city officials’ push for answers about the return of Cathedral High to Surrey Road. After Cathedral’s building was badly damaged in the June 2011 tornado, the school moved to temporary digs in Wilbraham. But for some in the city—including many of the Cathedral alums and parents who happen to be in positions of influence—that site hasn’t been “temporary” enough, and they’re anxious to get the students back at the Springfield site. That group includes Mayor Domenic Sarno, a Cathedral parent, who recently wrote to Bishop Timothy McDonnell asking when the Springfield Diocese will rebuild the school.

Spokesman Mark Dupont told Dobbs that the Diocese is waiting on FEMA money and on the results of a fundraising campaign that seeks to raise $10 million for a tuition fund.

Dupont said, in part: “It is important for people to realize that enrollment declines were a great concern for many years prior to the tornado. The people of the diocese have been the largest and most consistent benefactor for Cathedral for many, many years through generous subsidies and underwriting operating deficits. The bishop has been honest and forthright that he holds the school in high regard and wants very much to see it returned to Surrey Road but that this financial situation cannot continue without being addressed with a plan and therefore it must be part of the decisions made at this critical juncture. Unlike cities and towns, other than funds, which may come from FEMA, we cannot fall back on the Commonwealth or taxpayers.”

Author: On Springfield

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