|By Erin O'Connor|
SPRINGFIELD At a press conference on Oct. 31, Mayor Charles Ryan and Chief Development Officer David Panagore announced several projects which are aimed at redeveloping certain areas. One area of emphasis is the downtown, specifically 31 Elm Street. "Rather than resent the downtown, we must let people see that this is everybody's turf and that revitalizing the down-town is in everybody's best interest," Ryan said.
"There will be enhanced lighting in these areas," Ryan said. "The look will be uniform."
Ryan said renovations will also include sidewalk construction and repair.
Existing funds would be used for the project, including a state grant that was initially awarded to the Picknelly family for a hotel. The cancellation of that project opened the grant for the city revitalization project.
"We must move these funds or we will lose these funds," Panagore said. "We reprogrammed the fund and have $2.4 million in Board Funds from 2002. The Community Development Act Grant will provide an additional $1 Million to be available for the project."
Ryan said that confirmation for the project's start came after the week-long Urban Land Institute meeting.
"It is the first commitment that is made to the downtown [project] with more to follow," Ryan said.
Ryan added that special emphasis will be placed on 31 Elm Street and the Court Square area. "It is eminently doable," he said.
The city revitalization will also include new housing in this area of Springfield. "The type of housing will be determined by a market rate housing study that will be done to examine what size and types of units whould be constructed and for who," Ryan said.
"There will be market rate housing in the downtown," Panagore said.
Ryan continued "We must get the investment community to look at this in a favorable way, not just for hotel use but there is tremendous potential here."
He said that between now and the Christmas holiday he expects several more inititiatives for the revitalization to take place.
"Later they will work on new restaurants," he added.
Panagore expects one law business to be relocating.
"We will begin the first and second quarter of next year working with people if any relocation is necessary," Panagore said.
Ryan said that by this time next year the Main Street improvements will be in place.
The engineering survey work is underway and we expect it to be completed," he said.
Ryan said the project is marketed for building competition in the City.
"This is the best way to go," he said.
They are expecting not to tear down the original building at 31 Elm Street.
"There is no talk of demolishing but to bring it back," he added.
Ryan said that law enforcement agents are working in 'tandem' with the project as well.
"The police committioner supports the development with uniform lighting and a well lit location," he said.
Ryan said he is pleased with the Springfield Police Department's current status.
"If Deval [Patrick] wins then he will be successful putting thousands of police officers on the street in Massachusetts and we will get our fair share," Ryan said. "We have been doing substantially better than we have been," he said.
Ryan said the city has a commitment to make Springfield safe.
"There are parts of the city that are safe now for walking distance that were not there two to three years ago," he added."All and all we recognize the problem [crime] and we got to believe," he said.
Ryan cited the one-hundred and thirty-five police cuts that took place three and a half years ago.
"These positions are gone," he said. "One-hundred and thirty-five cops make a profound difference in this area of the city."
The mayor said he will perform a demonstration of the new surveillance cameras that will be installed within the week.
Questions were directed at Ryan in regards to a pending lawsuit against the city for the recent billing on trash collection.
"Trash fee collections, essentially solves the financial problems for the city," Ryan said. "The first bills for this matter will be going out at the beginning of this month."
Ryan said he is not worried about the suit.
"This is quality of life and it is perfectly appropriate to do it. There is a cost in collecting trash," he said.
"The only thing that will stop the bills is a restraining order," he added. "In the absence of any state aid, and not loans or grants-we have to do it [raise finances] ourselves."
Ryan said that on this matter he will trust in the good sense of the supreme court judge who will hear this case and if it is illegal here then it is illegal in 137 other communities that collect fees on trash collecting.