The Apremont Triangleis a combination of intersections, beautiful prewar buildings, and a miniature urban plaza which has been searching for an identity and for a way to achieve its potential for decades. In a more prosperous city it would be hard to imagine it being anything less than a lively and dynamic public space with a variety of uses. As it is, it is underutilized, and undervalued.
*The three buildings which frame the east end of the triangle are beautiful examples of early XX Century architecture combining magnificent stone construction materials, thoughtful symmetrical permeable design, and sculptural details.
*The Kimball Tower frames the west end in stunning fashion. In its style it is reminiscent of the Edificio España in Madrid and its relationship to the Plaza de España, on a more humble scale of course.
*In a part of the city where a grid design dominates, having this triangular public space creates a rare terminating vista and an unexpected open space.
*The triangle is solidly entrenched within the residential heart of the downtown, a block or less from Mattoon Street, Armoury Commons, 122 Chestnut, Kimball Towers Condominium, Museum Park, and the various high rises on Dwight Street. While the three commercial buildings on the triangle do not have a monopoly on retail space in the vicinity, they are clearly the most beautiful and the most perfectly designed for retail and “second story” office uses.
*The plaza within the triangle has mature trees which balance the scale of the man made structures around them.
*There is a great deal of on and off street parking which, given how horribly parking tends to deform urban spaces, in this particular case,is well scaled, neatly divided, and relatively unobtrusive.
*There is more car carrying capacity than needed, and therefore too little of the space is dedicated to people and their needs. The plaza is too large to act as merely a vignette (and what a waste that would be), but is too small to be comfortably used as it is.
*Two of the three commercial buildings have been bastardized over the years and the original large ground floor windows have been replaced with stucco, concrete, or plastic panels destroying the visual permeability and the pedestrian friendly nature of their ground floor design.
*Most of the storefronts are empty, and some of the ground floor uses are inappropriate for the space.
What to do?
*Close the portion of Bridge Street which extends east beyond Chestnut Street and use that space to connect the plaza to the sidewalk in front of 480-496 Bridge Street. This will more than double the effective area for pedestrians while at the same time creating an even greater space within the plaza comfortably far away from automobile traffic. This can be done in such a way that emergency and delivery vehicles can still have a corridor for their use. Pearl Street would simply continue as a two way street until crossing Chestnut Street, vehicles traveling west will simply turn right onto Chestnut and left onto Bridge Street, the fact that there would be no cross traffic at the old intersection of Chestnut and Bridge would mean no need for a traffic signal and no net delay for those cars whatsoever.
*Change the programming of the Bridge Street frontage to take advantage of the expanded plaza space: Cafes, retail shops, and restaurants. Return all of the windows to their original size.
*Add public art to the plaza, or perhaps a fountain with a creative sitting space.
*The connection to Springfield’s past of the name and significance of “Apremont” (see Wikipedia) needs to be made clearer to the visitor in some substantive way.
*Replace the metered parking lost in the conversion of the eastern portion of Bridge Street as part of the expanded plaza design using diagonal “head first” parking.
*Unify the entire triangle, including the off street parking, especially the southern side of Pearl Street using decorative lighting, the already existing brick sidewalks, and pedestrian amenities such as benches and trash cans.