More details on State Street progress

George O’Brien wrote an article for the June 12 issue of BusinessWest about developments along Springfield’s State Street corridor. The story is that rare breed of news article that takes a close look at the design considerations, with a nod to the process that the commissioned engineering firm, VHB, has been undergoing for months now. From the article: "Our basic goal is to improve travel for pedestrians, bicycles,...

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ULI week follow-up

Springfield City Hall has posted the ULI panel’s final presentation (PDF) online.NPR affiliate station WFCR‘s Tina Antolini covered the ULI panel’s visit all week, collecting hours of audio footage. Antolini deftly condensed the report into a scant ten minutes or so in a piece that aired yesterday. The Republican‘s Azell Murphy Cavaan could also be seen at most of the ULI events during the week. Her summary of...

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Fragile stability: FCB quarterly report

The Springfield Finance Control Board recently released its September 27 quarterly report (PDF). Its next meeting is slated for Friday, October 20, 11:00 am in room 220 at City Hall. So much fire-putting-out has been done by the FCB, I wonder why they don’t wear hard hats at their meetings. From the quarterly report: While the operating budget is in balance, this balance is precarious and can be tipped by a revenue shortfall or...

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ULI report: Barry Elbasani on downtown Springfield

The entire Urban Land Institute presentation about Springfield merits close study and discussion. Of pressing interest is Barry Elbasani’s section on downtown, in which the short- and mid-term recommended projects were unveiled, along with what might be termed guiding philosophical approaches to physical design and strategy. Elbasani, of ELS Architecture and Urban Design in Berkeley, CA, began his piece last Friday by asking,...

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Represent

At a meeting last night, Springfield City Council approved a measure, by an eight-to-one vote, to "seek approval from the state Legislature" to change the way the council is elected, making "the first major change in the form of government here since 1961," according to Republican reporter Mike Plaisance.The change, if put into effect, would increase the number of council members from nine to 13. Currently, they...

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Devine assessment

Amherst-based blogger Tom Devine has posted his take on the recent Urban Land Institute panel presentation, with some colorful commentary about questions that arose about Springfield’s Union Station.

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The weapon is love?

The works of systems-dyamics thinker Dr. Jay W. Forrester recently crossed my path, synchronously with a recent piece by Civic Strategies consultant Otis White about an innovative way to shut down drug-dealing. Forrester, whose 1969 book, Urban Dynamics, promoted his ideas and their application to cities, gave a 1998 presentation on his philosophy in Seville, "Designing the Future" (PDF). From that presentation: [A] social...

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ULI report: Elizabeth Davison on plans to reality

At last Friday’s Urban Land Institute panel presentation in Springfield, Elizabeth Davison, director of Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs, capped off the formalities in a portion of the final report about implementing plans.The first item Davison addressed was the need for more effective communication from the city to its residents, as well as a means by which residents can more effectively provide...

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A seat at the table

Amherst, Massachusetts is taking a look at its comprehensive master planning process. What can sometimes feel like a dry, drawn-out, no-quick-results experience is being jazzed up by rainbow colors on the town Web site.Last night, the western Massachusetts support group Hidden-Tech sponsored a "new media focus group" in the basement of Amherst’s Jones Library. The purpose of the event was to "share short...

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For what it is

As the school year approached, and summer wound down, I found myself avoiding calls from a particular family. I was wracked with guilt about this. I avoided the calls because I knew what they were about, and I was frustrated, even angry, in the anticipation. My feelings were futile, and I was cowardly. The caller would ring several times but never left a message, and this would only sharpen my negative outlook.“If you want...

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Where we live

Connecticut public radio station WNPR‘s weekday morning show, “Where We Live,” featured an excellent two-parter about the city of Bridgeport last month. It’s called “A Tale of Two Connecticuts: Part 1” and “Part 2.” From WNPR’s site: It’s been said often. There are two Connecticuts…one made up of the very rich, and one for the very poor. Stuck in the middle is the city...

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The search for “quality renters”

Springfield resident, registered nurse and real estate broker Mary Ayala attended the Urban Land Institute panel’s presentation on Friday, September 29. She raised an issue during the question-and-answer session about the concern many property owners have in the city, which is how to find “quality renters” to fill apartments and houses. A lot of owners give up and sell, she said, when they find out how difficult it...

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Works of their own

I’ve been working for a few weeks now with a class at a local elementary school, under the tutelage of the school’s writing instructor, to create a published project generated by the students. The form the project takes will likely be something in print initially, as that comes easiest. I have been hoping also to publish online, since it is low-cost, full-color, and accessible. The writing instructor caught on to this idea...

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ULI report: Patrick Fox on clear goals, accountability and scarce resources

At the ULI panel’s presentation last month, Patrick Fox, president of Saint Consulting Group in Hingham, Massachusetts, offered the shortest segment about establishing accountability in Springfield.Offering a single visual element—a slide listing eight critieria for the use of scarce resources, including both land and finances—Fox described a “struggle over the allocation of resources. …There has to be...

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ULI report: Alvin McNeal on “making a visible difference”

At last month’s ULI panel presentation, Alvin McNeal, Senior VP for Planning and Development at Fraser Forbes Company in McLean, Virginia, spoke about adopting new development strategies in Springfield.“In reviewing the most successful cities,” McNeal began, “one of the lessons, or recurring themes, all of us have been able to identify is that they began thinking like a master developer, [enabling cities] to...

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ULI report: Ray Kuniansky on neighborhood strategies

At the ULI panel’s presentation last month, Ray Kuniansky, Chief Operating Officer for the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, spoke about how to “strengthen the present” and “plan for the future.” He began by praising Springfield’s assets: it’s a compact city with abundant major institutions, beautiful buildings, and many open spaces with greenery and water—making “a...

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ULI report: Jeff Kaplan on the “soul of the city”

At last month’s ULI panel presentation, Jeff Kaplan, an associate with Wulfe & Co. in Houston, Texas, addressed the matter of Springfield’s image and potential for reinvention—with focus on its culture, its economy, and its government. He began by sharing the panel’s observation that there seems to have been a lack of a vision. “The city used to be the City of Homes,” he said, “and today...

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On futility

A former neighbor of mine moved out of his multi-family house this year, opting to rent it instead. He didn’t move far, and he comes back from time to time to check on the place. The tenants have changed several times over the two years I’ve been here to watch. One of them seems to be a steward of the property. It is good to have a steward who lives in the building. Too many landlords don’t bother to see to things...

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How those plea bargains feelin' now?

I admit that my jaw dropped when I read today’s news alert in the Springfield Republican about the dismissal of all charges against racketeering and bribery defendant Peter Davis. Of 13 defendants, Davis was the only one to allow his case to go to trial. The rest took plea bargains in this very prominent case involving employees of the Springfield Housing Authority. According to the report by Stephanie Barry, the statute of...

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Traffic “pseudo-science”: urban crash causation

Reader Tom Eisenman shared with me an article in the September issue of New Urban News, laying out an argument that tall, vertical objects along streets, like trees and buildings, are deterrents for car crashes—in contrast to the frequent input of "transportation engineers, who contend that a wide travel corridor, free of obstacles, is needed to protect the lives of errant motorists." More from the article: Though...

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Lessons for today's housing crisis

The type of housing crisis Massachusetts may be experiencing right now is distinct from the crisis Springfield is likewise enduring in particular. In most places around the state, affordable housing can be hard to find. People who can’t afford better housing may indeed be flocking to Springfield simply because there are no other decent options. And some might even say that Springfield itself is not a decent option, given the...

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Springfield and exit strategies

No, this post isn’t about how people can strategize a means to move out of Springfield. It’s about the idea that Springfield might need (and continue) to strategize ways to get out of its own services or subsidies. Civic Strategies consultant Otis White, citing management theorist Peter Drucker in his October 15 E-Letter, writes about the need for local governments to put every operation and activity "on trial for its...

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Parking…at Museum Park

The view down Springfield’s Harrison Street from Chestnut, standing approximately right in front of the local package store. Looks like the naked tree at center got the memo on looking as bleak as possible. Photo by Heather BrandonAccording to the Armoury-Quadrangle Civic Association‘s October newsletter (PDF), changes are coming to the corner of Harrison and Chestnut Streets, rehabilitating "a major eyesore and...

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City farmers host biotechies

When a bunch of biotech executives visited the Pioneer Valley on Tuesday this week, looking into possibly locating some business resources in the area, including Springfield, one of them—Nina Corcoran of Cambridge-based Genzyme—was quoted by Springfield Republican reporter Patricia Norris as saying, "I learned a lot more than I thought I would."City of Low Expectations?In pumping up the visit in an October 11...

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Road rant roundup (turnpike tolls turn testy)

No one’s eliminated the Massachusetts Turnpike tolls just yet, but the turnpike authority did vote yesterday to end tolls west of Route 128. According to the report in the Boston Globe late yesterday, a bit of a perfect storm was brewing just as Governor Mitt Romney was powdering his nose for a press conference on the matter: At the same time the turnpike authority board was meeting, a special state commission looking at funding...

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Dumping in the city

Bill Dusty of The Rogue Review, based in Springfield, posted photos yesterday of symptoms of bulk-trash-dumping in two city spots.The photos were taken at the prominent intersection of Maple and Central Streets, along a row of beautiful yet sadly neglected townhouses. Tons of motor traffic pour through this intersection on a daily basis, holding people up just long enough to get a good, solid look at all the garbage.Yet we don’t...

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More ULI follow-up: “The State We're In”

Jim Madigan, host of WGBY‘s "The State We’re In," interviewed Chambers of Commerce President Russell Denver and Springfield’s Chief Development Officer David Panagore for a 30-minute show that aired October 13, "Urban Land Study: Springfield’s Future." During the interview, Panagore said he thinks that the plans for market-rate housing and retail in the South End are going to get everything...

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Show of Hands citizen journalism survey

If you’re a reader of this blog—or a creator or consumer of any citizen journalism project—the J-Lab at the University of Maryland would like to hear from you.

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The language graveyard

A recent study from the University of California, "Linguistic Life Expectancies: Immigrant Language Retention in Southern California" (PDF), reveals that Spanish-speaking immigrants adopt English very quickly.According to Zach Patton of Governing.com‘s 13th Floor, "By the third generation, an immigrant family generally won’t even speak Spanish." He quotes Ruben Rumbaut, a UC-Irvine sociology professor...

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Act of faith: being a citizen

In a recent article about Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan’s visit to a civic association meeting, The Reminder‘s G. Michael Dobbs quoted Ryan as saying, "by being citizens of the city, ‘we perform an act of faith every day.’" Amen to that, brothers! Just wondering where the worship services take place. City Hall, room 220?To bolster faith in that can-do attitude, The Reminder also published Levon J....

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Self-contradictory freshness in the Acres

Buzz about the new Fresh Acres store at the intersection of Wilbraham Avenue and Parker Street got me to arrive at the store’s doorstep a day after it opened. The Springfield Republican primed the pump in an October 18 business-section article just a day before opening, as well as a June 6 article. An article a year ago described the beginnings of Big Y’s effort to establish this cutting-edge, smaller-footprint supermarket...

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Public schools to close on November 22

The Springfield School Committee apparently voted last week to cancel school on Wednesday, November 22, which was previously scheduled to be a half-day. This news comes from a small blurb in today’s Springfield Republican: Springfield school canceled for Nov. 22 SPRINGFIELD – In accordance with language in the new teacher’s contract, the School Committee has voted to cancel school for Nov. 22, the day before...

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Bethesda Lutheran Church fire

The Bethesda Lutheran Church on Island Pond Road suffered a horrendous fire in its sanctuary on Sunday afternoon. CBS3 has been all over it, with on-the-scene coverage of the fire as it was being extinguished, follow-up coverage on the day after, and another story about the prayer vigil that was held last night in the church’s gymnasium, which suffered smoke damage, but no flames. Make Way for Ducklings, a pre-school and nursery...

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Urban planning as branding

An article appeared in today’s Springfield Republican, by Azell Murphy Cavaan, about efforts on the part of the city (read: Finance Control Board) to seek proposals from real estate and marketing companies to analyze and market several high-profile properties "that have languished for years."According to the article, requests for proposals will go out on Monday and will be due November 20. The properties will likely be...

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Inmates perform at AIC

Northampton-based The Performance Project, which creates and performs "high quality original works of theater and movement with men and women in jail, and those who have been released from jail," is slated to take the stage of the Esther B. Griswold Theatre (corner of State and Homer Streets) at American International College tonight and tomorrow, both shows at 7:00 pm, in a performance of "A Warning for the King."...

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