Springfield, MA – The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds provide a substantial infusion of resources to help turn the tide on the pandemic, address its economic fallout, and lay the foundation for a strong and equitable recovery. In advancing those objectives Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, Chief Administrative and Finance Office (CAFO) TJ Plante and Chief Development Officer (CDO) Tim Sheehan announced today the Building Back Springfield Program as part of Mayor Sarno’s continued commitment and initiatives of investing in our neighborhoods and providing much-needed relief and assistance as the City of Springfield moves forward from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Sarno has directed CAFO Plante, CDO Sheehan and Director of Recovery and Business Continuity Attorney Tom Moore to allocate $15 million of the City’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to support this initiative that will continue to help spur economic development, job creation and neighborhood beautification and improvements to mitigate the negative economic impacts that so many Springfield neighborhood commercial centers have experienced throughout the pandemic and to hasten their post-pandemic recovery. The initiative will serve and help address historic/locally significant buildings and their adaptive reuse and rehabilitation through the Office of Planning and Economic Development. Those interested in learning more and reviewing the application can visit the Office of Planning and Economic Development’s website at: www.springfield-ma.gov/planning in the coming days.
Mayor Sarno states, “As we continue to move our Springfield forward with this transformative opportunity, my Administration is committed to offering relief and assistance for our neighborhoods, our historic districts and significant buildings to continue to build upon our local economic development projects, spur job creation/growth and enhance and transform our neighborhoods through creative reuse and rehabilitation of buildings and structures that have been underutilized or long dormant. Sometimes you need to ‘set the table’ – ‘prime the pump’ to create a force multiplier that benefits the whole of Springfield.”
CDO Sheehan stated, “Neighborhoods with a variety of buildings of different ages and types, especially those with historic or locally significant buildings, offer a built environment that’s well-suited for independent businesses and housing. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has found, that neighborhoods with a diverse mix of building ages have more startups and a higher share of small businesses, compared to those with newer and more uniform buildings. This program will offer a unique opportunity to help enhance these buildings in our neighborhoods and develop a creative reuse that will serve our residents and business community for years to come.”
In Springfield a consistent challenge to this type of development is that too often, the intended building has been vacant or neglected for many years and is in a state of extensive disrepair. Many of the buildings that framed the history of our neighborhood commercial districts and downtown sit empty, underutilized or blighted. These buildings have tremendous potential to seed a crop of new businesses, startups or independent entrepreneurs, or to expand our multi-family housing inventory. However, the capital to retrofit, bring up to code, and re-occupy these buildings typically exceeds their economic value. Investing in such projects is daunting for local entrepreneurs or even experienced commercial property owners and developers. Further the chances of success are not that great for a lone business that restores one building without similar rehabilitation efforts happening.
CAFO Plante added, “This initial $15 million investment of our ARPA funding allocation will help to start and kickoff this vital Building Back Springfield program. The program will be sustained for future use by a combination of grants, loans and other funding sources. This program will help create and build upon potential development opportunities that in turn will enhance these districts and increase property values for the benefit of all.”
In addition to the $15 million initial investment, the Build Back Springfield Program will utilize grants, loans and other funding sources to address the specific economic barriers of an adaptive re-use project. The City’s investment in these buildings will help spur the much needed economic recovery of entire neighborhood commercial districts, and facilitate the growth and expansion of local businesses within them. Additional benefits realized by such investment includes maintaining a diverse commercial building inventory, increasing property valuations and increasing development opportunity by using that which has already been built. Adaptive reuse of existing, historic or locally significant commercial buildings also helps solidify the distinct identity and character, of our neighborhoods which in turn fosters a deeper sense of community and attracts new private investment.
The Build Back Springfield Program recognizes the economic, environmental, and cultural value of preserving older and locally significant landmark buildings and structures; provides a framework for sustainable development; and offers a clear process to review a variety of projects resulting in a range of new uses. Further the program is focused on providing construction trade opportunities to Springfield based businesses and those that are women and minority owned. The City seeks to encourage adaptive reuse by streamlining the plan review process and allowing greater flexibility to better serve the needs of a changing community.
The revitalization of buildings through reuse or repurposing stabilizes neighborhoods and preserves the City’s many architectural assets while providing for new economic growth, housing and employment opportunities. Through this program the City is investing in the context, culture, history, and ambiance of its neighborhoods and downtown.
The City’s Office of Planning and Economic Development Site Plan Review Committee will review the qualifications of an adaptive reuse project application on an individual basis with the understanding that each project is unique and requires specific attention. To qualify for assistance, the project MUST represent a substantial change in use. Adaptive reuse does not pertain to minor alterations to an existing structure or the use of a current building or facility for similar purpose unless such property is vacant. Each project is also required to conform to the underlying zoning, unless the Development Services Site Plan Review Committee recommends the advancement of a zone change.