Publicly available records of official municipal meetings held earlier this year revealed that a local developer intended to acquire and demolish a building, the Shean Block, at the corner of State Street and Main Street in the heart of downtown Springfield. In just the last month MGM announced during a meeting of the State Gaming Commission that they were in negotiations to put the market rate housing they are officially required to develop as part of their agreement with the Commonwealth in the very building that the parking which would take the place of the demolished structure was designed to accommodate.
Putting a surface parking lot at the 100% corner of downtown Springfield and at the primary juncture of the MGM development and the rest of downtown represents an enormous obstacle to the long term transformative impact of the project for the city and to the financial return to MGM of their enormous investment. There is no guarantee moving forward that either goal will be achieved, but being complicit even passively to an action which so heavily weighs on the side of failure would be irresponsible.
I felt so strongly about the backward thinking nature of the idea of the destruction of the street edge at such an important downtown location that I contacted Jeff Speck, knowing that he had consulted with MGM on the design of the project, to ask him to express his opinion on the subject and he went to the trouble of doing so after what I can only guess were very difficult conversations with MGM. I cannot thank him enough for writing these words which just last week I shared with members of the media and every member of the Springfield City Council:
I have been an outspoken supporter of MGM’s plan because I truly believe in the transformative impact the overall project could have. I have expressed my views forthrightly that this is an economic development program with an element of preservation and not the reverse. My primary concern here, despite the historic value of the property, is actually for all parties concerned in terms of its economic impact.
Unfortunately there are many well meaning but ignorant people in government and in the private sector in this region who have no real understanding of what makes cities work. Confronting them can be difficult both politically and in terms of public perception, but there are actions which are so central to the success or failure of the entire project that they must be contemplated thoroughly before they are executed; a parking lot at the corner of State and Main falls into the category of a massively destructive idea.
To destroy this building would be the height of idiocy.