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Two projects started for downtown redevelopment

Date: 7/13/2010

July 14, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- What does the creation of a new parking lot and program space have in common with 20 six-foot tall fiberglass sculptures of high-top sneakers?

They are both projects designed for the on-going redevelopment of downtown.

John Judge, the city's chief development officer, told Reminder Publications that work began last week on asbestos remediation of the former Asylum nightclub building at the corner of Main and Worthington streets.

This is the first step in the demolition of about two-thirds of the building and the construction of a 30-space parking area that will also be used for outdoor events such as a farmers' market, Judge explained.

The environmental cleanup will cost $280,000. It was first estimated at about $500,000, he said. That phase should be completed within about 45 days. Followed by what Judge described as a "delicate demolition."

The rear two-thirds of the building, identified by a yellow brick, will be removed. The three-story facade on Main Street will remain, he said. The resulting parking area will have a wrought iron fence with two curb cuts. The curb cuts will be designed so a section of fence can be installed to seal off the parking area to cars.

Judge believes the parking area would be finished in November. The parking area will "open a big light well between the former Federal Building and the Student Prince," he said.

The use of the parking area for events assist in the concept of creating a "7 a.m. to 11 p.m." downtown, he said.

The building on Main Street will be the new home for the offices of the Springfield Parking Authority (SPA), which will be responsible for the renovations of the building, a project that could take another six months, Judge added. Besides the SPA, which will manage the new parking lot, Judge believes another non-profit will move into the renovated space.

He said completing the project "replaces a missing tooth on Main Street."


Judge was also one of the city officials at the kick-off of the Art & Soles project in which 20 giant fiberglass high top sneaker sculptures will be painted and decorated by area artists.

The announcement took place at 1200 Main St., which will act as the studio space for eight of the artists.

According to Judge, Boston had a similar project with cod fish, and Chicago had one with bears.

"No one can own the basketball sneaker like the city of Springfield," Judge said.

The project is a collaboration between the greater Springfield-University of Massachusetts Amherst Partnership, the Springfield Business Improvement District (BID) and TSM Design.

The final look of the shoes should answer the question ,"What makes Springfield great?"

Nancy Urbschat of TSM Design said she proposed the project a year and a half ago and showed it to Maryann Lombardi, director of creative economy for the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Donald Courtemanche, executive director of the BID about six months ago.

Courtemanche said the artists would have three weeks to complete their designs. The shoes will then be delivered to locations in the downtown area, all within walking distance of one another to coincide with this year's enshrinement at the Basketball Hall of Fame. They will remain on display until the end of October at which time they will be put on auction with the proceeds to benefit a yet-to-be-named charity.

Urbschat said the project still is looking for sponsors and The Young Professional Society is soliciting people and businesses for donations.

The temporary studio space at 1200 Main St. will be open to the public to see the creative process. Hours have not yet been announced.

Among the artists is Joe Dzaialo of Longmeadow who will create a collage of cut paper celebrating the work of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. His retrofit of the sculpture will even include a donation box.

Springfield native and photographer Buzz Caron will turn his sneaker into a house, specifically "Mulberry Manor." He'll be adding a roof and a porch, among other features.

Painter Gina Beavers, director of the Springfield Arts Initiative, will be celebrating the city's green spaces with her sneaker.

Janet Stupak and Doris Madsen are both artists and Springfield Library employees who have teamed up for a work titled "Step into the Library." Noting the Aug. 2 deadline for completion, Madsen said, "We'll be busy."

The other participating artist include:

• John Archambault; title of sneaker: "Springfield to Never Never Land"

• Nafis Azad; title of sneaker: "Springfield on 'Cy'neakers"

• Karen Dupuis; title of sneaker: "Layers of Skyline"

• Mischa Epstein; title of sneaker: "In My Neighborhood"

• Jasmine Noemi Jiminez; title of sneaker: "Da Fields"

• Betsy Koscher; title of sneaker; "Sneaky Animals (Suicide Sam, Jiggs and Snow ball)"

• Lorraine MacAlpine; title of sneaker: "New Life, The Rebirth of Springfield"

• Mike Manzi; title of sneaker: "Forest Park"

• Robert Markey; title of sneaker: "Wanna Dance?"

• Catherine Soule Mein; title of sneaker: "Silken Strength of Springfield"

• John Simpson; title of sneaker: "Fantastique"

• Phoebe Siter; title of sneaker: "City Courts"

• Mary Wroblewski, with the help of her middle school students; title of sneaker: "Education Moves Mountains."