Edwards Street. In what I view to be an elaboration of the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force made manifest in urban revitalization, one of Springfield’s master plans called for creating a market rate residential neighborhood between Mattoon Street and the Quadrangle. The idea was to take a relatively empty street surrounded by many healthy properties owned by stable institutions (Springfield Museums, Catholic Diocese of Springfield) and quite a few well maintained homes and apartment buildings on Mattoon, Elliot, and Salem streets and reprise that healthy area of housing on Edwards Street.
Unlike many struggling urban centers, Springfield never totally decanted the downtown and one could say that most of the city’s revitalization efforts in the late 70’s and early 80’s focused on improving and increasing the options for downtown living. That said, some the developments originally intended for yuppies and dincs (double income no children) are now populated by families. Except for the Classical Condominiums, very few developments focused on owners as residents and none on townhouses.
The Springfield Museums actually took a huge step in supporting this plan by moving the Blake House from a location set well back from Edwards Street to a location fronting directly on Edwards Street. They then took a giant step, an enormous step, an indescribably monumental step backwards by acquiring AND TEARING DOWN a perfectly good, stable, well-maintained apartment building on the same street in order to replace it with nothing. After that the museums then purchased and paved over a poorly maintained dirt parking lot they had leased for years. Yay.
The Springfield Museums should be given credit for removing cars from the actual Quadrangle from which the museums get their nickname, but their failure to engage the institutions which surround them to look for more creative means of providing parking, and their absolutely imbecilic decision to destroy a wonderfully historic brick apartment block must be pointed out. Most of the surface parking owned by the Catholic Church goes unused even on Sunday mornings and is poorly designed and structured to maximize its functionality. Add to that both the gigantic parking lot on State Street available to museum visitors and the availability of a great deal of on street parking during the day, during the week, and it becomes clear that both the church and the museums could make hundreds of thousands of dollars from developing the empty lots now set aside for parking and still be guaranteed that their constituencies would have sufficient opportunities to store their vehicles.
Even if one were to contemplate a “worst case scenario” where St. Michael’s Cathedral had an enormous celebration scheduled at the same time the Museums had a special event occurring AND the Springfield Library’s Central Branch was open there would be thousands of spaces available both on and off the street within just a block of those institutions and, if one assumes the elimination of perhaps 50-75 spaces located on Edwards’ Street frontage, it hard to imagine the negative impact outweighing the positive impact of visiting these institutions ambulating through a healthy, vibrant urban neighborhood.
At the same time most days and weeks would see the residential, business, and recreational/institutional uses of the neighborhood coordinating perfectly . Residents would need parking evenings and overnight during the week, but not much at all when the museums were open: during the day, during the week. On Saturdays all day, and Sunday afternoons when people are home and the museums are at peak use, the church’s demand for parking is minimal and commercial use drops to nearly zero in the downtown thousands of parking spaces in numerous garages are empty. Making the short walk from these garages to the museums energizing and enlivening is the key. Also, ending the ridiculousness (special feature coming soon!) surrounding the enormous museum parking area on State Street could provide what would seem like a brand new parking facility for use of library, museum, and church patrons!