Many of the names and some of the descriptions in this blog have been changed to protect the guilty.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

When Did Downtown Springfield Jump the Shark? Part 1

For those who don’t understand the cultural reference, the idiom “jumping the shark” is used to denote the moment when something has surpassed its relevance—when it has become irreversibly bad; irredeemable. The phrase comes from the climactic scene in a 1977 episode of the show Happy Days, when the gang visits Los Angeles and The Fonz, answering a challenge to demonstrate his coolness, water-skis up a ramp and jumps over a confined shark.

To be sure, by then—shark or no shark—the show had become a shadow of its former self. Two years earlier, when Happy Days was at its peak, Fonzie executed a motorcycle jump over a “record” 14 garbage cans in the parking lot of Arnold’s Drive-In. It was ambitious for a sitcom, it was during the height of the Evel Knievel craze, and it was fun. But after he jumped the shark, many viewers—including yours truly—knew that the show was past its peak and clearly going downhill. For example, Fonzie ridiculously wears his leather jacket for the jump. The Fonz, the ultimate in cool, became very un-cool. Happy Days went on for another seven painful years after that, bringing in such characters as Chachi and the alien visitor Mork from the planet Ork.

What does this have to do with downtown Springfield? Simply put, at some point (Do we know exactly when?), downtown officially ceased being a shopping destination for both Springfield residents and suburbanites and, on the whole, became a place to avoid.

This futuristic giant cube slowly rotated at the former Baystate West Shops.
Below: Foot Locker in 1986

In some ways, this is a difficult blog post to write, because I had defended downtown for decades. “It’s all overblown,” I said about the crime. And, truth be told, downtown Springfield is mostly safe. If you’re not wandering around there drunk at 2:00 a.m., chances are that you’re not going to get beaten, stabbed, or shot.

That being said, some serious shit does happen at ALL hours of the day and night downtown. Just ask any cop: it’s not the O.K. Corral, but you just have to keep your wits about you, as you would in ANY urban center. “You’re safe,” I insist to people. You might have to ignore the junkies and alcoholics, and politely brush off the panhandlers, but this is a necessary evil in all cities, right? Hell, I did it in Boston for 21 years.

However, perception is everything, and from a public relations point of view—from a shoppers’ standpoint—downtown Springfield jumped the shark long, long ago. But when? Can we pinpoint the exact moment? I believe I can. It happened on December 12, 1980, when hoards of assholes beat and horrified holiday shoppers in front of the Baystate West shops. This was the Associated Press story:


SPRINGFIELD, MA (AP)—After a gang of between 50 and 100 youths allegedly marched through downtown Springfield Friday, police say they arrested five teenagers on charges of assaulting Christmas shoppers and pedestrians. Police say plainclothesmen had to disperse the gang outside the Baystate West shopping center after they walked down Main Street sidewalks, forcing shoppers and pedestrians to walk in the street. Extra police have been patrolling the downtown area all week in response to rising reports of assaults by juveniles on shoppers. The increasing assaults have occurred during the afternoons, when the city's high school students get out of school.

Before you think that this article smacks of sensationalism, it was confirmed by a Springfield Daily News account, which revealed even more disturbing details. There was no exaggeration in this story—and it was far more serious than simply kids beating up kids. A 33-year-old man was simply walking down Main Street in front of Richard Stevens clothing store at 12:30 p.m. when he was jumped at Hampden Street and kicked and punched to the ground. Police arrested two 17-year-olds in that incident. Two hours later, during the main disturbances after school let out, a 16-year-old was charged with disorderly conduct following an assault on an elderly woman in Baystate West.

One has to realize that the Baystate West Shops comprised a mall that was fighting for its life in 1980. The shopping complex opened in 1970 in an attempt to revive what was left of a Main Street retail area, which was hurting after the Eastfield Mall opened in 1968. When Holyoke Mall opened in 1979, the doomsday was ticking down on Baystate West. Reports of this kind of wolfpack mentality, especially with an elderly victim—maniacs extending a season’s beating to her while she was doing her holiday shopping—hastened Baystate West’s decline in a big way.

Above: Baystate West under construction, with the pedestrian connector to Forbes & Wallace on the left.

In 1997, MassMutual spent $10 million renovating the Baystate West office and retail space and renamed it Tower Square. Today the smattering of establishments cater mostly to area office workers. Some blame the recessions of the 1980s (starting with the 1982 recession), 1990s, and 2001 for the mall’s, um…demise. (According to deadmalls.com, the complex isn’t exactly dead, but it may be “on life support.”) Still, nothing will kill a commercial area like violent crime.

Okay. You can play the devil’s advocate and say that the roving mob’s show of force that day in 1980 was an isolated incident. Surely, you insist, that kind of event was rare. You are correct. But there were plenty of other occurrences—many of which did not make the newspapers…

…such as one October evening in 1980 when my brother Dan, my friend Dave O’Brien, and I were waiting for the Wilbraham Road bus in front of Baystate West. We had just taken the bus from the Big E in West Springfield and were dropped off on Main Street, which, as usual, resembled a ghost town late in the day. The sun was setting, and we were the only people waiting for the bus. Not a soul in sight. But we weren’t nervous, because we were minding our own business, and there’s never any blatant criminal activity right on Main Street, in the epicenter of downtown’s shopping area—at least while there was still some daylight. Right?

We were just waiting for the bus, as we had done a million times before. Then the boredom was broken by a car full of guys bombing around the corner on Gridiron Street and zooming down Main. It flew by us and took a right down Vernon Street (now Boland Way). Five seconds later, another car, packed with a gang, apparently chasing the first car, followed the same path. I don’t remember the models of the cars, but I can generally describe their occupants. First car: Hispanic and scared shitless. Second car: Hispanic and pissed off.

We couldn’t see what was happening around the corner, but we heard a screech of tires as the second car stopped on Vernon Street. This was immediately followed by the sound several men yelling in Spanish. The only English I could pick up from the argument was something like “fucking Whops!” or “Don’t fuck with the Whops!” And then:

Pop! Pop!...Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!

Nope, those weren’t firecrackers. No pops from a pop-gun were these sounds either. A half-a-dozen gunshots echoed through the streets. Both cars burned rubber and drove away. We looked at each other in bug-eyed shock. Would they be back? Would another car come? We weren’t going to wait near the curb to find out. Adrenaline pulsed through me like a surge in a high-voltage line. We walked into the recess of the Baystate West entrance. We didn’t go inside, because we didn’t want to miss the bus, but believe me, we were prepared to move damn quickly into the mall if we had to.

“What’s with the ‘Wops’ shit they were sayin’?” asked Dave. “There weren’t any Italians mixed up in that shit, were there? Did you guys see any guys from the South End?”

No, I explained, I believe that one car was filled with the Whops, a gang that hung out in the North End’s Kenefick Park. They were also called the Last Survivors, but their new nickname was Whop City, or simply the Whops. They were the sworn enemies of the Demon Straighters, whose turf was Calhoun Park in the North End. Their battles were legendary, but I had never heard of their feud involving weapons more serious than knives and bats—until then. What we heard was no doubt the Whops vs. the Demon Straighters, or the Whops vs. one of the allies of the latter. Or maybe the Spanish Lords or the Midnight Glowers or the Latin Destroyers or the Crazy Bunch were involved. God, ya gotta love the names of these gangs. And imagine that, we were privileged enough to hear the gunfire.

“How do you know all this shit?” asked Dave.

“Because I read the papers, ” I replied.

What the papers didn't tell us, though, was that these beefs were spilling into downtown and that guns were now being used. Great.

The gang fighting was becoming such a problem in the North End that the Guardian Angels started patrolling the streets in 1981. Springfield could have used these guys downtown as well, because things were getting out of hand there too.

The shooting incident made for some interesting conversation on the bus ride home and later with our friends in The Acres, but we didn’t tell our parents. They wouldn’t have been happy about it. “Downtown is getting too dangerous,” they would have said. “We don’t want you going down there unless you have to.”

But the event didn’t dissuade us from going downtown afterward. Downtown had yet to jump the shark in our minds. But we knew we had to watch our backs whenever we went there from then on. Although the Fonz wasn’t quite airborne, he was water-skiing toward the ramp, and a flying Fonzie was an inevitability.

No, we weren’t giving up on downtown yet. Because we liked to go to the record store in Baystate West and then hit Main Music and check out the discount rack. Because we liked to play pinball at Playtown. Because we liked to thumb through magazines in Johnson’s bookstore and read an entire National Lampoon without getting hassled by the clerk, which is what happened to us at Parker Drug. Because we could take the elevator up to the top of City Hall’s campanile tower and take in the view of the city. Because sometimes they had rock laser shows at the planetarium in the Museum of Natural History, even though they had pretty lame ones compared to the shows at the Big E. Because we wanted to continue to blow our money on old baseball cards at The Rebel Peddler. Because we got a chance to gawk at bums, even though making fun of bums (I mean, the homeless) was cruel and the proliferation of bums (uh, the homeless) was another sign of a city in decline. Because, because, because, because, becaaaauuuuse. Because of the wonderful things that we did down there. Because it was OUR DOWNTOWN, dammit, and we weren’t about to hand it over to the punks. Not yet. It wasn't Oz, but it was ours.

So let’s go back to a time when we used to take the bus downtown to shop or simply hang around. I don’t think this is much of an option for today’s youth, and that’s a shame.

Take, for instance, Forbes & Wallace, one of the main reasons for going downtown—until the store closed in 1976. Below are photos of the front of the building taken from several angles, minus the main canopy above the front doors, because these shots were from 1981, a year before the structure was torn down. You know a city’s downtown is in trouble when an eight-story building, formerly home to the city’s largest department store, sits vacant for six long years—and then is replaced by a large hole in the ground for five more years. The city planted grass in this pit, installed benches around it, and called the crater a “park,” waiting for a developer to claim the site. I remember doing professional wrestling in the hole once with my brother, and, to accentuate the point that downtown was getting too violent, I gave him an eye gouge and maliciously body-slammed him to the bottom of the crevice in our “pit match.” Just think, this happened right where the basement Meridian Restaurant used to be. Monarch Place was built on the site in 1987—more than a decade after Forbes closed.

You knew Forbes & Wallace was a living museum as soon as you got on the elevator and there was a real elevator operator wearing a uniform and white glove pulling a large lever attached to the floor. You could see the floors moving past you through the elevator door. I should say “doors” because there was that collapsible metal mesh first door that had to be opened before the real door.

It’s easy to forget how much Forbes was a part of the Springfield skyline.

Now all that’s left is one of the building’s facades as a tribute. Some say it’s a replica:

Does the FW stand for “Forbes & Wallace” or “fucking wasteland?”

Yes, you can definitely make the case that downtown jumped the shark when Forbes & Wallace closed in 1976. When they tore it down, there was a Springfield Union story on the demolition that included the building’s actual resistance to the wrecking ball. At one point, the demolitionists wondered if they could actually dismantle the place because it had been built so solidly. I remember reading the account back then, but I’m disinclined to surface it now, because, frankly, it would be a damn bummer to re-read the story about Forbes, defiant until the end, finally falling into rubble.

The Forbes & Wallace site looking west down Vernon Street (above) after it was torn down: the connector to Baystate West on the right was severed and was next to go down. The store's parking garage in the back remained for several years.

In hindsight, maybe Dan and I were wrestling in ANOTHER hole in the ground downtown when we were younger—we MUST have been younger to create such a ruckus. It could have happened a bit earlier than between ’82 and ’87—unless we were college-age and drunk, which was a distinct possibility. Dan, help me out in the “comments” section here. Yeah, I know that isn’t your name, shithead. Just answer me one question: in what year did I body slam you in the pit?

Above is a ’70s holiday season photo of Baystate West and Forbes (left). Baystate West was linked to Steiger’s through an overpass across Main Street. Click on the photo to see the details: the Wilbraham Road bus (our bus) at a time when it picked up passengers in front of Forbes. (Notice the Friendly’s sign to the right of the buses, along with the Steiger’s neon sign on the far right.) When the PVTA moved the bus stop to the front of Baystate West after Forbes closed, the exhaust smoke that hung beneath the overpass were toxic enough to kill an elephant.

I always thought that Steiger’s wasted this walkway on various displays (in the photo you can even see the mannequin in the window). This place would have been a great vantage point to look down Main Street and check out the people waiting at the bus stop. But no. Whenever we tried to look out the window, and Steiger’s personnel always asked us to “move along.”

Remember that colorful “city scene” mural in the old SIS building across from Baystate West in the early 1970s (above)? I always thought that the city had it painted in a bizarre burst of municipal funkadelia. But now my sources tell me that it was painted for a scene in the 1974 movie The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. If my memory serves me correctly, to the right of the bell-bottomed characters were (hidden behind the building) silhouettes of a woman pushing a baby carriage and a stooped-over elderly woman with her hair in a bun.

Tommy Devine’s Cosmos Report, the best blog in western Massachusetts, details Springfield’s ill-fated master plan, outlined in the above 1978 publication, to revitalize downtown, including the idea to turn main street into a pedestrian mall:

Click on the photo to see good old Main Music to the right of AVCO and the ancient Poli Theatre sign to the right of the street lamp. In a sketchy move, it looks like the sketch artist covered up the Poli marquee with a fountain, and for good reason: you know a downtown is lining up to jump the shark when a theater closes in 1966 and is demolished in 1967, but its sign is still up in 1978. The city, needless to say, abandoned the pedestrian mall plan.

The Poli marquee finally came down in 1980 to beautify the Kennedy-Poli block. How did this momentous attempt at urban renewal work out? A safer, more prosperous area of Main Street? A year later two men were mugged in the Poli parking lot at 9:30 p.m. One of them handed over a dollar and fled into Theodores restaurant when the two thugs demanded his car keys, the other was kicked and robbed of three dollars.

Other schemes to revive downtown ended in political gridlock. They included: a proposed casino, voted down in 1994 (even though the pro-casino Mike Albano was elected as mayor); a proposed minor league ballpark touted by Albano (an eminent domain land-taking was rebuked by a Massachusetts Superior Court judge in 2000), and a one-way Main Street to improve traffic flow, which was tried northbound between Liberty and State Streets for several months in 1995 and then rejected.

Did downtown Springfield officially jump the shark when Steiger’s closed in 1994? The shuttering of the store certainly meant more than the loss of scores of jobs: it was one less reason to make the “scenic” trip from Sixteen Acres through Winchester Square to downtown. Steiger’s art-deco building was razed the following year and replaced with, of course, a “park,” another missing tooth showing in Main Street’s grimace. Steiger’s downtown location had been operating at a loss since 1990. It was demolished in 1995:

On the day Johnson’s Bookstore closed in 1998 there were several reports of a UFO in the sky over Springfield. The alien was described as a white male wearing a leather jacket, with spray from the water-skis raining down on downtown Springfield.

(Above) Johnson’s bookstore is pictured on the right.

According to Tommy Devine, it was the late and loony lawyer J. Wesley Miller who might have hastened the bookstore’s demise by proclaiming that he had advised Paul Johnson, the owner of the business, to give up his store and become a religious missionary. Was there any truth to this? According to the website of the Evangelical Covenant Church on Plumtree Road, Johnson, who grew up in Sixteen Acres, was trained to became a missionary shortly after his store closed. Johnson’s Bookstore, it says, bit the dust because downtown Springfield was a victim of the local economy’s struggles. Well, whatever the cause, Johnson’s is no more. Below is a photo of the inside of the store.

While I’m raiding Tommy Devine’s blog, I might as well include his old photo and ticket from the late great Playtown, a great old hangout:

I’m not sure when Playtown closed (early 2000s?), but its sign was still up in 2008:

In 1989, an assailant grabbed the 66-year-old manager of Playtown with a choke-lock and forced to hand over cash. Three hours later, the same hood that pulled this stunt robbed Backofen’s Market on Worthington Street, hitting the owner with a can of food. Shortly afterward, the latter victim sold his store.

Yeah, I know, maybe I’m overdoing it with the repeated references to specific violent crimes. It wasn’t (and isn’t) like the movie The Warriors down there, but, as I pointed out before, perception is everything, and people read things…people hear things…


In 2002, our beloved Main Music closed—over a parking issue. Owner Fred Borrelli, who was rapidly losing business, begged the city dedicate more metered parking spaces across the street in front of the Civic Center, but was rebuffed because of potential traffic tie-ups.

Borrelli laughed at the idea that Springfield was making a comeback because of the entertainment district on Worthington Street and the riverfront development.

“I could walk down the street naked at night down here, and nobody would notice,” he told the Union-News. “The entertainment district is one street, and it’s working because business owners have hung in and created nice places. But it’s a night thing. It doesn't help daytime business. They're concerned with the riverfront, but I have news for them—if they can't take care of businesses downtown, how are they going to do it on the riverfront? People aren't going to go down there.”

Borrelli was wrong about the riverfront, because there has been some success there, with Max’s, etc. but, like the entertainment district, much of it is nighttime activity. And, in the case of Worthington Street, some of the nighttime activity is a bit scary, especially in the wee hours when the bars close.

I guess I was playing to the gallery a little bit when I pinned down the date of the 1980 Baystate West rampage as the moment downtown Springfield jumped the shark. It wasn’t one moment, but a number of incidents and factors, including:

• The July 30, 2003 shooting in the Quadrangle. No one was hit, but one gentleman pursued another near the library and fired four shots, prompting parents in Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden to grab their kids and cut their sightseeing a little short in was thought to be just about the safest place in Springfield, other than, maybe the Pearl Street Police Headquarters. Oops, I stand corrected:

• On December 30, 1994, Los Solidos and La Familia went at it in front of said police station, and then a shot was fired from a departing car at a man using a payphone. The shooter missed, and the bullet struck the building. This was a month after Los Solidos slugged it out with the Latin Kings in front of the station. In July of that year a man was shot and killed a block away from the site.

• At 2:30 a.m. on January 1, 2007, New Years’ Eve celebrating got a little to overzealous when an argument over a spilled drink in Kennedy Fried Chicken, across from the Hippodrome Night Club on Main Street, turned into a gun battle that left one man dead and five others wounded.

•On November 21, 2005, the owner of Hair Plus Beauty Supply, across Falcons Way from the newly refurbished MassMutual Center, was shot and killed during an afternoon robbery while dozens of people were on the street.

• A Springfield icon sticks out like a sore thumb: in May 2008, the city installed black aluminum safety netting along the campanile clock tower at Court Square to keep the limestone tower from popping loose. Areas around the 145-foot-tall structure were also roped off to prevent pedestrians from getting hit with debris. Permanent repairs to one of the city’s most magnificent buildings, which was built in 1913, would have cost $5 million, and the city didn’t have the money. At the time, the temporary repairs were predicted to last five years, before a complete restoration would be necessary to make the building safe again. Elevator trips to the top ceased years ago. Remember, image is important, and the image below sucks. It is symbolic of a city that can’t seem to recover. When the five years are up in 2013, is the city going to fix the tower?

Here's another iconic skyline timepiece: a photo of the old Third National Bank clock, taken by photographer Gary Tompkins in 1973. Oh, the good old days, when my dad would bring Dan and I to the Springfield Museum of Natural History on Sundays, which opened at 2:00 p.m without gunfire echoing in the background. We'd park next to the WSPR building and watch the clock, impatiently waiting to see those three magical digits: 1:59. ("One-five-nine!" my brother and I would cry.) It was time to see the stuffed animals, to be greeted by Jiggs the chimp at the entrance. Although it's a great feeling to take my five-year-old son to the same place (now the Springfield Science Museum), I can barely stomach the thought of him, 10 years from now, taking the Wilbraham Road bus downtown with his friends to hang around, which is what my friends and I used to do when we were 15. (Or, heaven forbid, ride their bikes down there, as we did a few times.) Maybe it's a similar dread that every parent has at the prospect of their offspring getting his or her driver's license. I don't know. I just wouldn't feel comfortable knowing he was walking around down there. Don't do it, Sean! When you're old enough to read Hell's Acres, know this: you can probably pull the wool over my eyes and simply say you're going to the mall, but don't do it! Don't go downtown without Daddy!

So of course some of you are still rolling your eyes and thinking that I’m ramming the crime problem down your throats. No, you’re not going to get mugged on Main Street. But you will be asked if you have spare change. Repeatedly. If you spend enough time down there, you will be asked if you want to buy drugs. It’s no big deal—you just say no—but it’s unsettling. This also happens in Boston, but I don’t have to tell you that Boston has a lot more going for it than Springfield.

You can’t downplay crime and how it affects Springfield's reputation, because when it comes down to it, that is what the city is known for: violence and political corruption. (Oh, yeah, and it's the birthplace of basketball.) In a 1995 survey by the Springfield Union News, concerns about a downtown revitalization was near the top of the list of the most pressing issues facing the city. It was ranked right behind public safety and the quality of the school system. Fast forward to 2011 in Mayor Domenic Sarno’s State of the City address: “We can speak about many grandiose development ideas for the city of Springfield. But, if our residents do not feel safe in their communities, we will not be able to capitalize on the tremendous development potential.” And if they don't feel safe downtown, why bother trying?

Downtown’s problems are not unique. Worcester also tried a downtown mall in 1971, but the Worcester Center Galleria tanked in the ’80s and was reborn as the Worcester Common Fashion Outlets in 1994. This, too, couldn’t compete with the nearby Greendale, Auburn, and Solomon Pond Malls. It was renamed the Worcester Common Outlets in 1996, but then the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets opened and Worcester’s dogged attempt to lure shoppers to its downtown finally fizzled for good. Worcester Common Outlets closed in 2006. Since then, there has been talk of CitySquare, a mix of retail, housing, and office space, but the development has been stalled.

In Hartford, the Civic Center Mall, built in 1974, faced stiff competition from suburban malls and went into freefall in the early 1990s. In 2004, a mixture of private, state, and city funding began working to redevelop the complex into Hartford21, a residential, retail, and entertainment complex. Undeniably, Hartford has also had its share of boondoggles to revitalize its downtown, from attempting to lure the New England Patriots to the half-baked idea of bringing the Whalers back. But the Hartford21 people insist they can create a dynamic urban center with residential space (262 luxury apartments) and they’re still trying to get a supermarket built down there—so far without success.

It all sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? And crime has also stifled these cities’ comeback.

Springfield has been aggressively trying to redevelop an office building on Elm Street at Court Square for several years now, firing a firm in 2008 when it couldn’t move forward with its project, which initially included plans for condos that would cost $300,000 a unit to build, but would sell for just $180,000. Gee, I wonder why THAT project keeps spinning its wheels. The building has been mostly vacant for two decades, but a new developer is expected to be announced soon.

There is also the $71 million revitalization of Union Station into an intermodal transportation center, buoyed by the federal government committing $120 million to improvements for the passenger rail line between New Haven and Springfield. If they build it, will people come?

There was $360 million in investment to the revitalization of downtown Springfield between 1979 and 1989. Is it any better off? At least there are buildings instead of holes in the ground next to Baystate West. At least the smell from Bondi's Island doesn't stink up the place anymore.

Look, I know I’m taking what can be perceived as a bunch of cheap shots at downtown Springfield—kicking a city when it’s down and perpetuating the stereotype—but believe me, I’d love to see it succeed. Maybe, because I was in Boston for more than 20 years, Springfield’s downfall to me seemed rather sudden when it was actually gradual. Despite what you’ve just read, I haven’t given up. I still go to Falcons games, and I’m glad the new ownership is keeping the team here, because the Falcons taking flight for better climes would have been the final nail in downtown’s coffin. And a couple of weeks ago my wife and I enjoyed a great dinner at 350 Grill and went to see the Springfield Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall. Last November, I took the family to the Big Balloon Parade, where I shot this video:

But downtown Springfield could be so much more. Don’t even get me going on the decline of Springfield’s concert scene, which I touched on in another post. You see, I love the band Hot Tuna. I got to see them in 1983 at the Springfield Civic Center, and then I was able to make a road trip from Boston to see the ultimate triple bill of The Band, Hot Tuna, and Springfield’s own Taj Mahal at the Paramount Theater on Main Street. I saw Hot Tuna numerous times in Boston over the years, but after I moved back to the Springfield area, I had to drive all the way over to Pittsfield to see the band last month. Why?

Why the hell can’t I see Hot Tuna in downtown Springfield? I like my Tuna served Hot, and I like it served in Springfield. When they tour again, I want to see a show at Symphony Hall or the Hippodrome (formerly the Paramount). Is that too much to ask? The Hippodrome was recently sold, and the new owner supposedly wants to bring in national music acts. I'll believe it when I hear it.

Until then, I’m sticking to my assertion that downtown Springfield jumped the shark. There, I said it. Again. I desperately want to see downtown go from "jumped shark" to Hot Tuna, but until I see and hear Tuna downtown, Springfield is shark city to me.

I know I’m long on complaints and short on solutions, but that’s where YOU come in. What will it take to make downtown a destination again? Leave a comment!

Read Part 2!


Jeff said...

Racking my brain for a creative answer. Springfield should be a vibrant city with a splendid waterfront, but i've avoided its downtown for years. Too bad, saw lots of bands at the Spfld Civic Center - used to go to the Museum of Natural History there in 1968.

john said...

Excellent chronicle Tommy. My only question was about the"Grassy hole". I am pretty sure that was the site of the former J.C. Penny building and was referred to by cynics as "City Hole" because it was next to the city hall.
There were similar mob incidents at Eastfield Mall which caused a loss of business and some closings but I can't remember when.

Hell's Acres said...

Thanks for commenting, Jeff and John. There is no easy answer for downtown. It would be great if an IMAX theater were built.

There were plans to put one in the Basketball Hall of Fame area, but it never happened. Also the original Union Station project plans, before the PVTA "missing millions" scandal, was supposed to include one of these theaters.

Randylou said...

Once again, your experiences parallel mine almost without variation. Unlike you Cathedral types, Classical's location downtown meant we got to be there just about every day. I took the opportunity to thoroughly explore the city during the late 70s, and yes, even then, we saw the decline. However, even then, you could still do much of your Christmas shopping, and you could still find quite a few specialty shops on and off Main Street. That's where I developed my affinity for all things urban.

I'm not sure, though, that you ever had the opportunity to wander around that plaza on top of the Bay State West parking decks. My girlfriend and I frequently took advantage of its general disuse by everyone, at least until a security guard finally came along and ushered us out.

But by the term's strictest definition, downtown jumped the shark the day the Eastfield Mall opened. Now, people in the western burbs had no reason ever to venture downtown, unless they had an appointment at the IRS or needed to fill out a form at City Hall. As a shopping destination, downtown's days were running out.

How do you revive it?

I've written on this topic ad nauseum, but first you need to completely give up on the idea that you'll ever bring back suburbanites. You need to make downtown a viable place to LIVE as well as work, and then the shopping will follow. All the failed development schemes since the 1960s failed precisely because they never (or rarely) considered a residential component.

But before that, City Hall needs to get its priorities in line and start developing the city FOR RESIDENTS FIRST, and visitors after. For that, you really only need to do three things:

1. Secure the streets
2. Fix the schools
3. Clean the parks.

Forget the convention centers, the sports stadiums, and whatever. Give people a reason to MOVE there and they will.

And thanks for the tip on Tommy Devine's blog. Fantastic stuff.

Hell's Acres said...

Hey Randy,

For some positive thoughts, the New England Farmworkers Council, the same group that bought the Paramount (and intends to bring in national acts to the theater again), bought the old Bowles Building (1610-1626 Main St.-the same building that The Fort and The Student Prince are in), and they're thinking of putting in condos and artists' lofts.

Tommy Devine's blog is excellent. Be sure to read his entry on the Broska Farm controversy in your old area of The Acres: http://tommydevine.blogspot.com/2007_05_01_archive.html

Cicily Corbett said...

Randylou, you are right on point. I myself live downtown, and I love it. From personal experience, and from working as downtown crew leader in last year's census, I can tell you that quite a few people do live down here! Classical Condos, the Kimball, the McIntosh, Armoury Commons, Mattoon Street, Stockbridge Court, Museum Court, 122 Chestnut, Morgan Square, etc., etc. And the more, the better. We are the ones who hold the fort after everyone else goes home for the night. Quite a number of my neighbors are professional people who could well afford to live elsewhere.

I work from home and walk to the YMCA, the library, the museums, STCC, Theodore's, the doctor, the post office, etc. I haven't driven my car in over two weeks. I can see one small market from my kitchen window, and the Big Y in W.Springfield is exactly one mile away (I just walked over there and back today). We have a community garden, house concerts, dinner parties, and plenty more amenities. I have a much fuller social calendaar than I ever did living in Wilbraham. With the price of gas, downtown living should be more attractive than ever.

I've been blogging off and on about downtown living on my own blog, A Luminous Halo, for several years. One thing I said, and I'll repeat here, is that I wish Tech had been turned into condos, like Classical. The state back-up data center won't provide many jobs to locals, will be off-limits to the public, and will add nothing to the historic/cultural center of the city. (On the up side, they'll have to keep the sidewalks clean, which the city hasn't been doing.)

The good drives out the bad; it's as simple as that. If enough socially-conscious, law-abiding people fill the neighborhoods, crime and vandalism go elsewhere.

barroom said...

was at that tuna show, flippin amazing electric show. double dose baby!!!

Anonymous said...

The problem started when they made most of the apartment buildings in downtown low income/section 8...and the buildings began basically running the rent paying tenants out when they realized they could get more rent from the government paying tenants.Chestnut Towers went from professional people to welfare people who weren't interested at all in keeping the area looking nice nor the apartments.Most every apartment building did this...what changes cities?? The desire for more money however they can get it..the cities die when they take the working people out of it..period!! Why is Springfield a crime ridden ghost town? Because it is filled with people who don't have to work like everyone else and have nothing better to do but sit around and create drama in the streets.Trust me,I was raised in Springfield and lived there until I was in my late 20s in the 90s and I saw it all..every downtown neighborhood favored welfare recipients over working people when you tried to rent apartments and if you did get in they would raise the rent every chance they got until people began to realize they were paying hundreds of dollars a month to live in buildings being destroyed by people who paid NOTHING...the truth is the truth whether we want to believe it or not and it's sad.I miss downtown Springfield,but I do know that it will NEVER return to the way it used to be because the days of good working people living downtown are over..Classical Condos may still hold some good people but once condo owners start moving because of crime they will have to rent out the condos and my question is..who is going to live down there NOW?????

Hell's Acres said...

Thanks for the comment about low-income housing.

The former Technical High School was supposed to be converted into market-rate housing in the 1980s. A portion of the Hollywood project in the South End was also slated to be reserved for market-rate housing.

But market-rate housing was built at neither site. To read about these fiascoes, and how the city lost money on the Hollywood project, visit http://tommydevine.blogspot.com/2008/04/neals-legacy.html.

Dave M! said...

Dear Mr. Acres,

I'm a comic book artist from Springfield, living in Boston since 1980. Two of my stories ("Dave Marshall Comic: Six-Year-Old Horse Thief" and "School Fight!")take place in Springfield. Your site was a major resource for reference photos. Thanks for the help, and keep on posting!


David Marshall, Comics/Art/Web Guy
Comics Teacher
Creative Services Consultant

Hell's Acres said...


I just read the old versions of "Six-Year-Old Horse Thief" and "School Fight." Hilarious!

Have you ever read Renrut's comics? He's another Springfield native, and his stuff is great: http://sophia.smith.edu/~bturner/renrutsworld3.html

Randylou said...

RENRUT! I haven't read his stuff since the early 1980s!! Thanks so much telling me about this.

Tom said...

I really enjoyed reading this essay. Burlington, VT has a very nice, very clean and safe, and very prosperous downtown area, and I'd love to see Springfield have something like that.... but public safety is the fundamental problem. Add to that the percentage of retail handled by big-box stores which can't be fitted into a downtown area, and it looks like a positively Sisyphean task.

On the other hand, look at how some of the malls have fared-- they lose their anchor tenants and start coming apart at the seams.

I was also at the same Hot Tuna show in Pittsfield. Bitter cold, middle of nowhere, Wednesday night-- and they still packed the house. I think I was the youngest person there.

Hell's Acres said...

Thanks for your comments, Tom.
I believe Springfield missed the boat in not developing the waterfront earlier. There was talk in the '70s and nothing much was done until the Basketball Hall of Fame was relocated in '85.

The city should have pursued outlet stores on the waterfront in the late '80s or early '90s. I know the location is separate from downtown, but this would have given people a reason to get off the highway, and who knows, some of them would have ventured into downtown to eat, etc.

It kills me to see so many shoppers flock to the Premium Outlets in Lee. These stores were built in the mid-'90s and Springfield should have beaten them to it.

That was a good Hot Tuna show. I though my wife and I were the youngest people there, but I was wrong!

Joe at Marino Creative Technologies said...

I was actually the Emcee for the Band/Hot Tuna/Taj Mahal show. Taj Mahal's Mom was actually there! She had been a teacher in West Springfield. The Paramount had just been remodeled. They had lots of great shows there at that time, including Greg Allman, BB King, and a newly revamped Little Feat. It was a full house. I don't know that you could get a full house for a show like that today because many of us who are of the demographic that enjoys these bands have left Springfield.
Thank you for your site. It brought back some great memories!
- Joe Marino, formerly of WAQY

Justin said...

Have you been to downtown Springfield lately..? I ask because, personally, I have seen - and I believe that a lot of people downtown are aware - that several big money constructions projects and new business ventures are taking place in Springfield right now (2011... Tornado damage aside; that said, the $billions in Federal funding won't hurt.)

Even the Boston Globe recently wrote about Metro Center Springfield's "resurgence."

I don't know when exactly it started because the city was pretty much left for dead in about 2000... But right now, (2011) in Springfield - just to give you some projects and figures to back it up:

1.) Baystate Medical is constructing a $300 million addition, called the "Hospital of the Future" and also spent $15 million renovating the old Federal Building at 1550 Main Street, which now looks new.

2. At the Quadrangle, there's a $110 million construction project underway to turn the Old Technical High School into a state-of-the-art high-speed data center for the Commonwealth... Right next to the recent (2009) $57 million Safdie-designed U.S. Courthouse.

3.) Ground-breaking is set for Union Station's $76 million renovation to become a combo train/bus hub... Necessary b/c Springfield is getting two new rail lines.

4.) Construction is set to begin in October on the "Knowledge Corridor intercity commuter rail line," from Springfield up through Northampton and the college towns to Brattleboro, Vermont, where it will connect to Montreal.

4.) Holiday Inn is renovating the old skyscraper on State Street, across from the MassMutual Center.

...And then, the big one:

1.) Next year, both Massachusetts and Connecticut will break ground on the $1 billion first-in-the-country high-speed rail line, (reaching speeds over 110mph.) It will be operable in either late 2015 or early 2016. One of the two major terminuses is in Springfield, (the other is in New Haven - another city that jumped the shark but is coming back.)

In other words, I think that your article might have been right on the mark about 7-10 years ago, when Springfield really seemed down and out.

Right now though, Springfield is headed in the right direction - for the first time in, what, 35 years? More?

Personally I have noticed that a lot of LGBT people and artist-types are moving to downtown - probably b/c rents are cheap, but still, it's resulting in a lot of liveliness and new clubs, coffeeshops, that type of thing.

I'm jumping back on downtown Springfield's shark. Union Station and the trains -- that's huge, in my opinion.

Bill said...

As long as the Red Rose restaurant is open (and even after having a tornado pass over, they are still THRIVING), I'll always have at least one reason to go to downtown Springfield. (I live in West Brookfield now, but I go there about once a month with my brother, who still lives and works in Springfield. The Red Rose is my favorite restaurant in the whole world. Our mom took us there when we were kids, when the Red Rose was just a little pizza place.)

This is without a doubt the most excellent and insightful article about Springfield that I have ever read. Congratulations on writing it.

Brendan said...

How about 5,000 words on the difficulty of getting the Big Balloon Parade balloons under the Steigers airwalk?

Hell's Acres said...

How about 5,000 words on ANYTHING anymore with a new baby to tend to? I'm going to keep at it, though. A new post is coming soon. I promise!

Anonymous said...

As a long time office worker in downtown, this article makes me incredibly sad. I did not grow up in this area, so by the time I arrived on the scene 22 years ago, Springfield had already jumped the shark. This is a really moving account of the slow decline of someone's hometown. The pictures are just fantastic. You have done a most excellent job conveying your perspective, and I thank you for that. I will never look at downtown the same way again.

Question for Justin, if you're still there. Where exactly are these new coffeeshops you speak of??

Anonymous said...

being 30 years old I barely remember the mall in Tower Square. I remember a comic book shop in there and that's it. My mom took me yo steigers all the time, but the plaza was so much closer to home. Reading this article made me sad. I used to love the talking x-mas tree and johnson book store. A lot of my child hood books came from there.

David said...

As a Springfield resident since 1973,I've known about the demise of downtown even as a kid when I used to hang out there skipping school(Tech High Class of '86)and going to Baystate Waste as one of my friends called it. It was always empty. I really had to post cause you brought back all kinds of memories with all the photos of old downtown especially the mural on the SIS building; I had totally forgotten about it but I remember it now along with the big digital clock. I grew up in the North End specifically Plainfield Street(Home of the Whops!) and generally Plainfield Street and all the streets in between was considered Whop City. Seen a few battles between Whops and DemonStraters when they dared cross the train tracks...Man, I could go on and on but my point is I also hear how Springfield is a shithole and you get mugged or shot just walking down the street, which is total bullshit...Yes incidents do happen downtown but I think it's gotten a bum rap!! On Masslive Forums Springfield that's all you hear. It happens everywhere but the local media always hones in on Spfld. I'll always love Springfield and I hope to read more of you're blog...totally loved it, Thank You!!!

David Marshall said...

Mr. Acres,

Thanks for replying to my comment. I didn't get an email notification, so only stumbled on your reply just now. I'm happy to say that my autobiographical web comic "Six Year Old Horse Thief" is finally complete. Though most of the action takes place at The Catskill Game Farm in 1968, the story starts off in Springfield MA. Hope you enjoy the finished product!

David Marshall

Hell's Acres said...

Hey David,

Six Year Old Horse Thief is hilarious, and so is School Fight. Readers: you can read the latter at http://www.inkystories.com/?webcomic_post=school-fight-page-1.

I can only imagine what some Hell's Acres entries would look like illustrated lol.

Grace Chandonnet said...

I lived in Springfield from 1977 to 1992, attended Duggan and Cathedral, worked downtown, grew up in Pine Point and lived on Pearl Street and in Forest Park, the South End and the North End as a young adult. Downtown was my stomping grounds as a teenager. I've been in Boston since 1992 and currently live with my boyfriend aboard our sailboat in Boston Harbor. I stumbled on your blog yesterday and this article in particular is making me think that moving back home might not be a bad idea. If I do, I will live downtown. I miss the Fort and Red Rose and the library in particular. Thanks for writing.

Hell's Acres said...

Hi Grace,

Thanks for commenting. One thing I didn't want to do with this piece was dissuading anyone from investing in Springfield or moving (back) to this city. It has problems, like many middle-size and large cities. For example, iIn Boston, where I lived for two decades, it is a good idea to keep your wits about you at all times to avoid being a crime victim. Boston, as you know, has a relatively safe downtown, but bad things can happen if you let your guard down.

I would tell anyone that going to downtown Springfield bars is fun, but it can get more than a little hairy at 2:00 a.m., and the same is true for Boston.

I think it's great you are considering a move back here. It won't be easy to rebuild a middle class in Springfield, and the city needs more people like you.

Melanie said...

While the shootings at The Hippodrome in 2007 was damaging to that club & the "entertainment" district... there were many issues there prior to that night. There were stabbings & problems before this night. The club catered to a ghetto crowd & they got what they asked for. Although chicken should not cause people to fight...there were many problems there as well. But, the owners, the police tell me, were sending their profits to the middle east so it was good they were shut down.

Anonymous said...

To me the term "Jump the Shark" always meant something was once good then it started to suck at some inevitable turning point. The problem with using that term in referenced to Springfield is that is was NEVER great or even good, at least not in my lifetime and I am 40 years old. Its a fuckimg toilet, always has been, and always will be. Get out, stay out, and forget about it. A previous comment made reference to the problem of poor people unwilling to work infesting the city. This is obviously a huge part of the problem, or maybe just a symptom of a city run by white collar criminals. I wouldn't set foot in that city if they were giving out free money in the streets.

Bill Bicknell said...

Ultimately, from lost jobs to lost souls, the common imploder is government...the more democratic, the more thorough the destruction.

Charles said...

If anything, part of the problem is Springfield is a classic case of kicking a guy when he's down. Even before social media and the internet in general, people ranging from past residents, current residents, visitors and those who have never been here, have taken an absolute delight in bashing the city, solely for the sake of bashing. Obviously like so many other cities, Springfield certainly had it's heyday, as many decades ago that was. But for those to simply say Springfield was never good and there's absolutely no chance for redemption is uncalled for. Springfield has been the victim of decades of failed government largely due to corruption. If we can elect honest leadership which leads to the appointment of other honest people to head the various city departments, who then hire honest employees, the sky is the limit. That coupled with economic development projects that will have a lasting impact. Other cities that have reached rock bottom at levels beyond what Springfield's radar, have made dramatic turnarounds. So why can't Springfield?

Hell's Acres said...

Hi Charles,

Thanks for commenting.

My wife and I went to Capital Grille in Hartford last night, and driving back up 91 she noted how cosmopolitan downtown Hartford is and had some choice words for downtown Springfield ("ghetto" etc.).

But I stuck up for my old city and insisted we grab a beer downtown. She reluctantly agreed. So we parked in Stearns Square and popped over to Theodore's and listened to a blues band for a half an hour. It was thoroughly enjoyable.

Message to everyone: you can go downtown Springfield without getting shot! Try it sometime!

Randylou said...

Now, there's a slogan.

Hell's Acres said...

lol. Put it on a billboard on 91!

Hey Randylou, I was talking to a guy about 15 years younger than me who hails from East Sixteen Acres--your neck of The Sticks. He described a gang feud in the 1990s between Thief Mob (Joan Street area) and the Natural Born Racists (Tinkham Road/Gate of Heaven Cemetery/Brunton School area).

Ever hear of these crews?

Randylou said...

No. I was well out of the 'hood by then. I moved out of Springfield in 1984, and except for visiting my mom, that was that.

Leona is a spy said...

The Band, Taj Mahal and Hot Tuna ranks amongst the best concerts I've seen.

Hell's Acres said...

Yes, I agree, even though it was acoustic Hot Tuna. Electric would have been really something! I would have been moved to write something on a bathroom stall.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Thomas.

I, too, grew up in the acres and still live here! Excellent read.

I'm wondering what your thoughts are now that MGM Springfield will be moving into our wonderful downtown?

I'm wondering what your thoughts

Hell's Acres said...

The casino is not an answer to Springfield's problems, but I think an $800 million project that will bring jobs and entertainment etc. into the area is a good thing.

Brian B said...

I was born at Wesson Memorial in 1954 and grew up in Thompsonville CT (a Springfield suburb...albeit in CT) during the 1960's and have fond memories of visiting the city as a youth. Every Saturday my Italian American grand mother would take us kids on the bus through Longmeadow to downtown Springfield for shopping and a movie. We would get Italian ice cream, hit the local shops, go to the Catholic church to do confession and end up catching a movie at the Bijou and eating Chinese food. We would sometimes go to Woolworths where my mother's cousin worked. She managed the children's clothing department and whenever we would go there the boy's underwear magically be marked down. We called it the family discount. Anyway, and this is a memoir and anecdotal, so forgive me if I am off a bit or if it was already mentioned in this string... but I recall my parents speaking of Springfield's "jumping the shark" in the 1960's and it really had nothing to do with crime or the local population. Rather...it was a HUGE mistake made by the city fathers running the government at the time. As I recall, over the years Springfield rivaled Hartford as the economic powerhouse in western Southern New England. And it wasn't always clear who would be the victor. But in the mid 1960's Springfield sealed it's economic and commercial decline by passing a city ordinance prohibiting the construction of buildings higher than 4 stories tall and declaring itself to be the "city of homes." This sent a contemptuous message to big business (insurance companies in particular) and associated commercial/retail interests that they could no longer expand or develop in Springfield...and generally were no longer welcome in the city. So Springfield sealed its own fate...and Hartford and New haven won. Sure...some years later Springfield would change it's mind...but it was too late...because the downward spiral was substantially irreversible as Springfield became better known for it's unsavory aspects of urban decline rather than it's robust economic base. The rest is just a sadconsequence.

Hell's Acres said...

Hi Brian B,

I had never heard about this ordinance, but I did search around the web, and it appears that in places there still is an ordinance prohibiting commercial buildings higher than 4 stories or 60 feet. Can you provide more info, because this would be a huge handicap for businesses. Can anyone else weigh in on this?

I had heard of an old state ordinance limiting the height of buildings in Springfield to 125 feet, which I touch on here: http://hellsacres.blogspot.com/2013/04/spitting-to-all-fields-part-11.html.

Anonymous said...

I invested my money and labor in pine point, what a mistake.

House is worth half the mortgage, my daughters bus stop is a 3x heroin bust site, every singlefamily home around me became an absentee landlord section 8 rental. I plow the street myself for lack of dpw. Except around the projects, somehow those folks get immediate snow removal and landscaping done by contractor at my expense. The best pockets of once working middle class east springfield are always half way between projects, which are about every two miles.

You want to bring back springfield? Deport the parasites and itll spring to life like amherst overnight. Bet me on it.

Hell's Acres said...


Thanks for commenting. I took out a couple of sentences in your comment that some might find offensive. Sorry. it's too bad they "dump their mattresses, tires, couches, televisions and motor oil right on the ground in front of their own houses," but there is no easy solution.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine an I were having a discussion about the new casino project the other day. We both grew up in the Springfield suburbs (Ludlow and Wilbraham) and both currently reside in large South American cities with typically poor reputations for public safety, myself in Buenos Aires, Argentina and my friend in Bogota, Colombia. I mentioned the casino project and how while, it's not a cure-all for what ails Springfield, it can't hurt. He laughed and said since people get shot all the time in downtown Springfield that it was doomed to fail. I forced him to reconsider his scorn for our old city when I pointed out that most Springfield residents would never set foot in our cities due to crime stories, yet we happily go about our normal daily lives and enjoy all our amazing cities have to offer. The story of Springfield's decline is sad, but better days are ahead and I look forward to a return visit in the not so distant future!

David Gaby said...

Greetings All -

I have just enjoyed reading the narrative and commentary, but I am moved to comment by gloom of this blog.

In fact the comments about the 'Low-income' folk and Section 8 rental are pretty much on point. By the operation of arithmetic low-income people do not have a lot of money and cannot support a viable Downtown. What many people do not realize is that the have been Federal laws since 1968 against concentrating poor folks in a city or community as has been done in Springfield, but these are never enforced in Springfield because the Globe does not cover anything that happens in WMass, and because HAP, certain law firms, and a number of landlords have been making millions$. Therefore violators inside and outside of City Hall have gotten a free ride, and continue to do so. Maybe the location of the MGM Casino in Springfield will end the isolation and result in enforcement activity.

Just to clarify the ordinance people were talking about limited buildings to 8 stories, like Forbes and Wallace and Third National Bank, not 4 stories, and was repealed in the 1960s when a developer wanted to build a high-rise next to Classical where the Church of the Unity used to be. It never got built but the the Valley Bank Tower was built as part of Baystate/West.

My nominations for the point at which the 'Shark was jumped' would be, from what I have heard and inferred:

1.) The point at which Mayor O'Connor (et al) decided to tear down the North End, even though it was 90% code compliant, and have I-91 cut through Springfield instead of staying in West Springfield as originally planned. This reduced the economic activity Downtown, which had rivaled that of Hartford until then, and cut the City's population by probably 30,000 people.

2.) The point at which "Business leaders' insisted on building Eastfield Mall on Boston Road even though the developer who was brought in, James Rouse, of Rouse Co., argued hard against the project, because he felt Springfield was not big enough to support multiple regional shopping areas, and that the activity should be gathered together in the Downtown area. The man who told me that story claimed that the President of Springfield Five Cent Savings was the one pushing hard to undermine Downtown, but I have not done the research to confirm that.

3.) The point in the 'Savings and Loan Crisis' when Bank of New England/West was taken over by FDIC, even though it was solvent while the rest of Bank of New England had been run irresponsibly, RECOLL was created, and the financing for Steiger's Christmas season was canceled, forcing the sale of the chain to Filene's at a huge loss. As I understand it Art Cement in Wilbraham as well as other local businesses were also forced out of business in the same way, as part of a transfer of $500 million out of Springfield into Boston and Hartford.

4.) The point at which the Commonwealth of Mass in the person of William Weld decided to proceed with the conversion of Chestnut Park Apartments to low-income (LIHTC) housing despite the objections of Mayor Albano. The Director of Housing said at the time that Mr. Albano "Should get over it" despite the illegality of the move. (I just checked and she still works there.) The State got millions, Related Capital (of NYC) has made millions, many families have been abused, and we have an economic 'Black hole'.

The solution, if any, is probably a combination of, as has been noted, getting on top of the mix of housing so that 'Affordable' housing is kept to an appropriate minimum, and at the same time build on the casino to make sure there is a safe environment, good market rate housing at all price levels, a variety of good retail stores, and a far larger daytime population. Even with Amazon and Walmart this can probably be done, but it will need to be done deliberately. It will not happen by itself.

Hell’s Acres said...

Thanks for the comments, David. I am hoping that the casino will make the Main/State intersection safer, but will it get more dangerous elsewhere? There was a shooting at Lyman and Dwight the other night. This was at 8:30 pm—not the wee hours.9

Sandi said...

As a kid I remember trips to Downtown to shop at the nice stores for school & holiday clothes.
As an adult I had two full time jobs that had me working Downtown for 22 years. I was the last Office Manager for Johnson's Bookstore. The malls really ruined stores like Johnson's. Customer service was a must (not like today). Until the day I left there (1996) I watched Downtown go from a great place to eat or shop to a place that is on the news when there's a crime of some sort. It is a shame.

Anonymous said...

The shark had been shot, killed, and stuffed, along with the jumper, when I was in high school (late 90s). We'd skip and head down to City Jakes for breakfast then get the hell out of Dodge before it got too late in the day.

I can remember walking down State Street toward Main one day on our way to the bus stop when a couple of opportunistic kids tried to run us out of our money. I understand why and the how, but it made me realize that the place I had hung out at with my mom during Take Your Daughter to Work Day had long since died.

This casino nonsense doesn't sound like it will do much good either. Considering the safety issues still going on, I honestly think the Casino will only make things worse.

I'm honestly not sure if there's anything to be done about it. I remember as a kid hearing about how awful NYC was. It seems like they've turned things around a bit (though rents are outrageous) so maybe it's just a matter of time. Maybe we'll see it in our lifetimes.

Hell's Acres said...

You know, I never thought about it before, but you're right, they made NYC a lot safer. I remember going down there in the 1980s--trash and graffiti everywhere, constantly fearing getting mugged etc. Grand Central Station was basically a homeless encampment. So when you think of it, if they can turn around a huge city like that--and everyone thought it was beyond repair--maybe there is hope for Springfield.