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Mayor ponders addition of urban park to Merrick section

Date: 8/9/2013

By Carley Dangona

WEST SPRINGFIELD – Mayor Gregory Neffinger envisions the creation of a park as part of the Merrick neighborhood revitalization efforts.

The Merrick section of the town was hardest hit by the June 1, 2011 tornado. On July 30, Neffinger announced the intent to establish a seven-acre urban park on the western side of the area. Proposed features include walking paths, wooded picnic areas and an open grassy area.

“I want communities to be proactive in defining areas in need of improvement,” Neffinger said.

The mayor described the proposed site at 380 Union St., as an “underused, tornado-damaged industrial complex.” Neffinger toured the site with Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary for the Department of Housing & Community Development, to discuss plans for the location.

During the July 30 press conference, he stated that he would like to remove the Butler – pre-engineered metal – buildings and expand some of the commercial spaces on the site. He plans to leave the older structures such as the Gilbert & Barker Manufacturing Co. building because they add “character” to the spot.

At this point, no formal plans have been drafted and no money has been designated for the project. Neffinger said he is currently researching local, state and federal funding options including Community Preservation Act and Community Development Block Grants to purchase, clean up and build the park.

He said that the lot is currently under receivership, but that the bank has demonstrated interested in sub-dividing the area. Neffinger envisions “repopulating” the park to transform it into a vibrant area with establishments such as ice cream and coffee shops.