Not quite a year ago I wrote a post which went viral, it garnered over 2,000 reads at RationalUrbanism and, apparently, was discussed in the halls of power as it were. The overall theme was that we were not Boston, we were not the reason Massachusetts continued to look so healthy statistically and that, in the case of a few specific developments and initiatives, we were doing it wrong.
The post was so popular because its topic was easily communicated via snark and I obliged. I make no apologies; placing a blank walled parking garage between your newly renovated $90 million transit hub and the walkable portion of your Main Street was stupid, is stupid, and will require thoughtful remediation from the day the station opens. However, almost every initiative taken since then has been well thought out and aligned with the city’s overall vision. The most recent update on Springfield’s progress was impressive in many ways, not least in the verbiage being used to describe the city’s goals: For the first time I can recall the economic development people see improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure as central to their cause!
As a matter of fact as I leapt from Masslive’s report on the presentation to the presentation itself at Springfield’s economic development website I found, right below it, a program, map, and implementation guide(!) for transforming what are now a number of key automobile sewers into complete streets, complete that is with real design changes that will completely alter the feel of the city from a bike/ped viewpoint. Transforming a four lane speedway with two narrow sidewalks into this:
And even a three lane one way superhighway could become this:
So instead of wonderful historic neighborhoods and an incredibly beautiful, walkable, safe, and useful Main Street being separated by streets, they will now become connected through them!
Getting back to the original presentation, another recurring theme is using development to increase tax revenue. This shows a “Strongtowns” understanding of the preeminence of fiscal viability for the municipality.
A personal favorite of mine is the plan to harness the centuries old (almost) dam at the Watershops to generate electricity. The city is where it is in part because of hydropower which was being harnessed long before the technology existed for turning it into electricity, but there are a number of other “falls” in the city which could become not so micro generators as well. Another initiative I would like to see is using turbines in the storm drains and sewers to generate power as effluent flows down from hundreds of feet of elevation to Bondi’s Island as other cities are doing.
It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and point to all the mistakes being made by those who are in the game, and the truth is it’s just as easy to cheer when things are clearly moving in the right direction. Bravi, I say, bravi!