Yesterday. I saw a man dressed in a white shirt and dress pants with a coffee enter a mid-block crosswalk barely glancing left or right before crossing the street. Even more bizarrely, TWO cars, one traveling north, and the other south, had each ALREADY stopped, assuming the man would continue. Again, it was a mid block crosswalk.
Was I in Northampton yesterday?
The guy didn’t even do that little half-run, half-walk that you normally see when mere pedestrians inconvenience the demigod.
In the pictures I took yesterday I caught 5 bikes (and two unicycles…long story). Here’s just one I didn’t publish:
To elaborate a bit on the what I posted last week: The plaza in front of Monarch Place had always been a moderately pleasing albeit nearly unusable space at one of the downtown’s two most important intersections. It was almost always empty or, at best, might have had a handful of workers rushing through it. The fountain at the south edge of the plaza was grand, but was turned off as often as not, and when running would sometimes splash water on passers by. The planters were too low and too narrow to sit on comfortably and had those unsightly anti-skateboard clips at intervals because the dearth of occupants in the plaza encouraged use as a skate park.
Last year this the plaza was torn up and redesigned. What had been a giant retail space occupied by a large bank office was divided into a small bank branch and a Starbucks. Flower boxes have been placed in front of the fountain to give the café its own outdoor seating area and the fountain has been repaired and tamed. The permanent planters have been raised high enough to make them comfortable places to sit as well. All of a sudden the shade provided by Springfield’s tallest office tower is an asset at lunchtime. As colder months approach at least some seating will be bathed in sun as well. Maybe Starbucks will adjust its seating from October to November and from March through May.
1550 Main Street underwent a similar transformation a few years ago. The plaza in front went from landscape stunt; a series of unconnected grassy knolls with low slung edges unsuitable for sitting; to an area which provided multiple tables and chairs for relaxing and/or eating lunch along with multiple edges for sitting while waiting for the bus or people watching.
One Financial Plaza was transformed long ago from cold, unfriendly, stone vignette into the downtown’s finest public spaces by repairing the fountain, adding movable tables and chairs, picnic tables, a hot dog cart and now even a piano.
Recall if you can that it was just last year that a coffee shop owner just down the street was prohibited from placing some tables and chairs on a bump out because they were “obstructing the public way”. The city has since enacted an ordinance allowing for tables and chairs in public areas…for a modest fee. All of these plazas, however, are private property and so not controlled by the city.
The question of how MGM has impacted all of this is an interesting one. Would this have happened without MGM? Is this a reaction to an impending threat: an attempt to keep up with the Joneses? Is it “the magic feather” effect? The most important question of all is will it survive the arrival of Colossus?
A non MGM related question is why would anyone locate a new enterprise anywhere else in the region? There’s the most and best transit coverage in a state-of-the-art intermodal station just a few blocks north; bars, restaurants, and coffee shops all over the place; all sorts of office space; top quality cultural offerings; and a variety of relatively low cost housing everywhere. Downtown Springfield has always been a place that only needed to flex its muscles a bit in order to dominate the region. As I will soon explain, all this only begins to hint at the area’s potential.