For a short time my ex wife rented a room in a McMansion in Westfield, Massachusetts. When I would drop off or pick up my daughters to visit her they would enter this enormous house with a huge lawyer foyer and entryway chandelier…through the garage. The anomalies of the topography made seeing any part of the house other than the garage nearly impossible; it always gave me the impression of being like the Batcave: a huge expanse of hidden living area entered through a secret tunnel.
In my house growing up we used the front door to enter and exit; a bit too often for my dad’s liking, and I remember how odd it seemed visiting people at their homes and entering through side doors, garages, and patios when there was a front door “right there”. There were even homes where the front door was a no-go-zone which was blocked with furniture, plants, or other such items. For the most part the distorting of the intended design was done to accommodate or facilitate people who were entering by car and what happened over time was that so much coming and going was by car and so little on foot that the front entrances became ceremonial at best, and then vestigial.
This may seem innocuous, but it has caused us to lose our sense of decorum, and our sense of artistry in life. These same distortions have spilled over even more greatly into our cities as ripping out and misplacing entryways and exits to provide passage for our metal masters disfigures and alienates the most human of environments.
How else to explain the possibility that a city expressing overtly in word and deed a commitment to creating a walkable downtown, presumably for people to walk and not Transformers, would raze an impeccably designed pedestrianly perfect permeable two story building at the 100% corner of the region sitting at the link point between a $950,000,000 resort complex and the rest of downtown to replace it with…surface parking?
This is what is planned along Main Street just to the south:
Keep in mind that years ago the city had an urbanism and architecture expert from New York City come and study the downtown and the primary message was to fill in the gaps along our primary streets which are filled with surface parking. A SPECIAL PLEA was made to eliminate another surface parking lot at the very same corner which is under discussion today: One of the reasons for the location and design of the convention center as it now exists was/is to regain the feeling of enclosure which pedestrians crave. If you look back at the pictures you’ll notice that only in front of the at-risk Shean Block are there people congregating and talking. The other three sides enclose, but they do not invite. The Masonic building and the old Mass Mutual tower have been altered to make them more permeable and open, the convention center is, at best, not a blank wall, but it is the Shean Block which best invites pedestrians to first LOOK in and then to WALK in; and this despite years of neglect and mediocre programming.
There are, or will be, 3 enormous parking structures less than a block away which could provide parking for the development which, in theory, the sought after surface parking lot would accommodate. A bird’s eye view demonstrates that at most around 75 parking spaces MIGHT be created, in addition to the 40 or so already available in the interior of the block. Meanwhile literally thousands upon thousands of spaces are available nearby(Development in the center, P for parking garages)…
Either making arrangements with the city or with co-developer MGM would make the spaces gained by removing the building surplus to requirements.
This location IS the most vital connecting point between the MGM complex and the rest of downtown, the downtown with its TDI district, Symphony Hall, MassMutual Center Arena, City Stage, and Union Station. With all the MGM resort has to offer, pedestrians really can, and studies show REALLY WILL be discouraged from crossing the street here if what beckons on the other side is this(actual size of potential lot):
Jeff Speck tells the story of a convention center and a very cool ethnic enclave in Columbus, Ohio which had been divided by an ugly highway overpass. The city got creative and gave a developer for free the opportunity to transform this:
And both areas are now thriving in ways never before thought possible. We have been gifted an incredibly well crafted downtown, what is left of it, to tear down the Shean Block would be to rip defeat from the jaws of victory, it would be to make the mistakes of 40 years ago all over again. The war was lost for want of a nail, and the battle to reawaken Springfield can be lost if we make foolishly shortsighted decisions.
I recommend these posts on similar issues. Here
This must not happen.