I listen to the news on the way to work as read by the morning hosts at Rock 102 mainly to find out what that 50% of the population that is below average intellectually thinks about local goings on. I call the segment “Idiots Discuss the News”. This week they did not let me down, one of the hosts, in response to a news story in which the Springfield Historical Commission (of which I am a member) was requesting that MGM attempt to incorporate two specific historic buildings into the design of the proposed casino, made the claim that the only worthwhile buildings in that block were “the Pride and the Berkshire Bank building“.
There are a dozen or so historic buildings within the footprint of the casino and the plan as currently constituted would preserve at least part of 4 of those buildings, 6 of the buildings have pretty much been given up as necessary losses, but two structures in particular are now at the center of the debate because they look nearly identical to the buildings MGM plans to construct to replace them. The old Union Hotel is the fourth oldest building in the downtown and has the same height and profile as the Main Street portion of MGM’s design, the façade of old YWCA looks similar to the colonnade the casino plans intend to create as the membrane separating the betting floor from the pedestrian plaza. Keeping in mind that MGM could have chosen to build its resort on land already stripped of historical significance architecturally as Ameristar and Penn National both intended to do, and the fact that MGM specifically cites the classic historic architecture of the South End and downtown as the primary reason for choosing precisely that location, it would stand to reason that they would want to preserve as much of that classic historic architecture as possible as they move forward with their plans.
Just given the number of historic buildings the commission is willing to write off demonstrates that, if it is to be criticized, it is certainly not for being too unwilling to compromise.
I’ll leave it to the reader to compare the quality of the buildings pictured below to the stunningly mediocre (and typologically suburban) gas station and drive thru bank previously cited, but the one thing this does confirm in my mind is the fact that commissions made up of selected, more enlightened, better educated individuals of deeper understanding are a necessity in a city with a past worthy of preservation.
As of right now only 4 of these structures will exist once construction begins on the MGM casino.