Having spent a few months using the direct approach in terms of their editorial decision to oppose casinos in the Bay State…a position which seems to have become increasingly vehement since Springfield became the destined location for such an enterprise…The Valley Advocate is taking a different tack: historic preservation. This week’s issue includes an excellent article by Bill Devlin making quite a few legitimate critiques of MGM’s plan for the South End, as well as a column listing Springfield’s most endangered buildings as designated by the Springfield Preservation Trust which just happens to include two buildings “endangered” by the MGM casino.
In truth, MGM has made presentations in the last few months showing alterations to its original plans which will preserve all but one façade on the State Street side of the complex and preserving at least the façade of the old Union House Hotel. Whether they will make some serious changes in order to preserve or replicate the façade of the old YWCA is an open question and certainly seems to be a reasonable request on the part of preservationists like myself.
In all fairness, the Advocate has been an advocate for historic preservation in the past as with this piece on the Allis Mansion, whose application for inclusion on the state list of endangered buildings I happened to write while I was serving on the board of the SPT. Unfortunately the Advocate has shown its hand here already. In her blog “On Springfield” Maureen Turner gave away the game when she expressed in so many words that she was concerned that a casino in Springfield might hurt Northampton. As reasonable as that concern may be, the bottom line here in Springfield for those of us who actually care about Springfield is THAT IS PRECISELY THE POINT. For the state the casino law is just about revenue, and had the casino in Springfield been developed in some satellite area like East Springfield off of 291 then the same would be true for the city, but placing the complex just to the south of the downtown is designed to re-situate Springfield as the cultural/entertainment center of western Massachusetts…usurping that primacy from NOHO which usurped it from us.
Their goal in highlighting preservation right now and doubling down on properties endangered by MGM is made more clear by the fact that their concern does not extend to knowing which building is which or which street is MAIN STREET as demonstrated by this photo and caption only corrected by an SPT member: (Not the Union House, and not on Main Street!)
Now I could stop there, but I won’t. One recent “On Springfield” blogpost focused on the 10 year anniversary of “tent city”. It was laudatory in every way as, once again, Springfield can never suffer enough nor publicly enough for its homeless. That “event” was the “straw” which broke my ex wife’s tolerance of downtown and caused my temporary dislocation out of the center of the city to the wilds of Forest Park. There was open drug use, sexual activity visible from the road, and public urination and defecation(In “Sanctuary City” not Forest Park!) Keep in mind that this is in the neighborhood where we already had (and still have) the city’s primary public and private “soup kitchens” and homeless shelters as well as day reporting centers and an alcohol treatment facility. I’m all for each and every one of those, but the lawlessness and chaos which was “tent city” went too far.
All the while maintaining structures and institutions for the poor, the best thing that we can do to help these people up and out of poverty is to make the city they live in more prosperous. Recent studies show that “gentrification” does just that by the way. Forgive my skepticism, but I believe The Valley Advocate is interested in “preservation” of a very different kind, and that is the preservation of the status quo: Springfield houses the poor, Northampton caters to the rest!