|By Debbie Gardner|
SPRINGFIELD There's a new person at the helm of the X Main Street Corporation.
On July 1, Lyn Nolan took over as executive director of the non-profit economic development corporation, replacing the organization's first director, Scott Hanson.
A member of X Main Street since its inception eight years ago, Nolan, who is also president of the Labroad Neighborhood Council, had already filled various roles on the Board of Directors before submitting her resume for the executive directorship.
She had high praise for her predecessor Hanson, and her own take on where the X Main Street needs to focus its efforts.
"Scott Hanson was a wonderful director and he did a very, very good job," Nolan told Reminder Publications during a recent interview in her offices at the Goodwill Shoppes on Sumner Avenue. "What I want to do for X Main Street is utilize my talents."
Focusing on business needs
"What I'd like to do is focus on the merchants," Nolan continued, explaining how she sees her role as executive director. "I've been a merchant for 25 years ... I have a lot of retail experience and I'd like to be able to share a lot of that knowledge with the merchants who might need it in any way."
That knowledge, she said, ranges from helping with permit applications to suggestions on how to merchandise a storefront to attract more customers.
"If they want help with it, that's why I'm here," she said.
Unveiling the Bing in Sept.
Nolan told Reminder Publications that her second focus is on the completion of the Bing Theater renovation project.
"We are getting closer and closer and closer," Nolan said. "We're looking at the end of September to get our offices squared away in the Theater, and the Gallery space opened."
One of the first exhibits will be a display of children's artwork done by students taking classes with Springfield artist Bonnie Thomas.
A second show, featuring the work of a Pioneer Valley photographer, is also slated for September.
Nolan said the completion of the office and gallery space, the start of art and film classes in the Theater and the initiation of fund-raisers in the Bing itself, not at offsite locations, will mark the completion of Phase One of the renovations.
"That's one of our strongest goals, to start doing fund-raisers inside the actual building so people can see that there's progress being made," she said.
The next phase of the Bing renovation will involve converting a portion of the 900-seat auditorium into a mini-theater showing independent films.
Nolan said she is hopeful that phase of the Bing renovations will be completed by December.
Creating an arts center
All of this, Nolan said, is designed to attract people back to the Forest Park neighborhood, and to Springfield.
"Part of the goal for the Bing is not just to open an arts center - a much-needed cultural center in Forest Park and for the city ... but we're also looking at it as a major force of economic revitalization," she said. "It just stands to reason that if you come to see an independent film, chances are you're going to want to make it a night out ... you're going to want to eat at the local restaurants, stroll down the street, maybe look at the antiques stores ... you don't realize it until you actually are sitting at the Bing and thinking about what the possibilities are all around you."
She said the Bing project now laughingly refers to itself as "Faux Pas."
"New York had Soho, and Northampton became Noho, and we call ourselves Forest Park, so we've nicknamed ourselves Faux Pas, and we've had fun with that," Nolan said. "We want to become an arts center, and a cultural center, and we want to expand that to the businesses in the area, and work our way down to the 'X."
"It's not mission impossible."
Helping maintain a vibrant area
Nolan said her third focus is to maintain the image of Forest Park and the "X."
"The Forest Park neighborhood is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city," she said. "And there are a lot of people who are committed to making sure that our neighborhood stays as healthy as possible, and it's that commitment that counts."
Like all Springfield neighborhoods, though, Nolan said Forest Park and the X Main Street Corp. have become concerned about the upswing in crime in the city, especially following the shooting of 30-year-old Lebanese immigrant Mohammad Younes at the Sumner Avenue Racing Mart gas station on July 22.
There is also concern about the deterioration of rental properties neaar the "X." Though Nolan said that problem is out of her jurisdiction, she is working closely with the Forest Park Civic Association to adress the problem with landlords.
"You can run, or you can make it better, and that's what we've been focusing on here at the 'X'," Nolan said. "Everyone throughout the city is concerned about crime and lack of police protection, and of course we are here at the 'X' ... not for any more reason than anyone else is."
Nolan said the "X" is fortunate to have just been give two walking police officers that patrol the business district and surrounding streets from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
"And we're working on some other things. We're not stopping there," she said. "I think the visibility of the police officers makes a difference, and I think the very fact that the Police Department is paying attention to what's happening here at the "X" is a positive."
Nolan said the X Main Street corporation is also working with Commissioner Fitchet and Officer Gormally of the Crime Watch Division to develop more strategies to deter crime in Forest Park and at the "X."
"I don't mind becoming a model neighborhood and working our way to different models of crime prevention," she said.