Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Corridor



A drive down to Boston Road Wednesday night; beginning from the Parker Street intersection where the larger retail and restaurant chains begin to congregate, and eventually coagulate, into the Eastfield Mall just east of the intersection...



But tonight we'll go in the other direction; west...







Not far from the intersection is the institutional Boston Road IHOP. Who hasn't stumbled into one of these venerable all-night joints at 2:30 am; attempting to squeeze out another hour or so of fun and maybe straighten up a little after a raucous night out, by stuffing an omelet and coffee down over a queezy stomache. This particular one has been around as long as I can't remember.



A zoom through the Pine Point section, where Boston Road merges with Berkshire Ave to form State Street...and we find the remains of The Copper Door, a bar that was, but is no more.



This area is also home to a bevy of car dealers, one or two new dealers, but mostly used dealers. I've perused many a lemon on this strip of road.





...around the corner, and there's discount bread at a thrift shop...



...within eye shot of Mass Mutual, the financial behemoth of Western Mass. It occupies a massive, almost federal looking building befitting a billion dollar company. But then again, the way things are going most finance and insurance companies might be 'Federal' looking soon enough...



Right across the street is the High School of Science and Technology, or Sci-Tech. Hopefully paving a path for the local kids and a future for Springfield.



Continuing west, on the flip side of the MassMutual building, are the mostly downtrodden Upper Hill and Bay neighborhoods, facing each other across State Street.





This stretch of State Street isn't exactly dead, but brimming with fortune it is not.

We reach the Mason Square neighborhood, which is really a junction of the McKnight and Old Hill neighborhoods. Back when it was known as Winchester Square, it had become one of the poorest neighborhood areas in western Massachusetts. But with the efforts of various community groups, state and local aid and business investment, the neighborhood is slowly but surely transforming. It is looking better than it has in decades; shops are abundant, the streets are clean and the square is uncluttered.







The centrally located and long forgotten former Indian Motorcycle Company building, which was the life blood of the neighborhood almost a century ago, was remodeled and has found new tenure as condominiums.



While it's still a poorer section of Springfield, the neighborhood in general appears to be doing better every year. But it's definitely not out of the woods yet, as some fortified store fronts will attest to...







The long-standing poverty of the area is a tough nut to crack but progress continues to be made due to the diligence of local community groups, such as the Martin Luther King Center located right in the heart of the neighborhood. One object of contention among the neighborhood residents is the relocation of the local library branch. The original building was bought by the Urban League, another neighborhood group , and the library was relegated to a smaller section of the building.



Various efforts are ongoing to relocate the library or regain possession of the original building. One suggested relocation was a nearby mosque, but the idea was not received too well.



Not too much farther down State Street is STCC and then the downtown area, which is beyond the range of tonight's trip. Time to head back.



The State Street area right near downtown is receiving a lot of attention these days, with the new courthouse and other improvements. Imagine if the winds of change swept even farther up the well-worn corridor, pumping new life into all the connecting neighborhoods along the way...

6 comments:

Mary E.Carey said...

Fascinating. I have never gotten a grasp of what Springfield is like beyond the one block to which I get dragged to listen to music at Theodore's and around the corner to the great Fort Prince restaurant.

Tony said...

That Mason Square area also has row after row of those great old ornate Victorian houses. Some have fallen into disrepair but many have been kept up or restored...

AdamH said...

Springfield is many things. :)

When I bought my house last year, all the contractors I had coming to do things couldn't believe that this was Springfield - neat, clean, quiet. I could only offer that they don't show the good parts on the TV news every night. "For the 300th day in a a row, nothing happened."

Tony said...

Hmm. Maybe I shouldn't have put up that next post...

El Keter said...

I don't know if I'd call the enormous, landscape-free, block-sized prison-like box that is the new Mass Mutual Center (which is an eyesore, a foot-traffic nightmare and the --partial-- cause of a lack of bus stops, sheltered areas and places to sit downtown) and another equally large and imposing but absolutely worthless box that is the Federal Courthouse "improvements."

The State/Boston Road area you drove through has gone through some incredible (incredibly depressing, incredibly heartwarming, incredibly alarming, etc) changes over the last 25 years.

When I was a kid my father was paranoid to drive up State/Boston road on his way to the Eastfield Mall area. When I was an adolescent I spent an inordinate amount of time there (particularly the area in and adjacent to Mason Square), shopping in stores for clothes and records, buying random items from street vendors, eating at various restaurants (Jim Dandy, Talk of the Town, etc) in the neighborhood and attending parties & concerts (by big-name Hip-Hop artists) at the Panache ballroom and the Aquarius. Stores closed, things changed. I had to chase dapperly-attired kids down on the street to get a copy of the Nation of Islam's Final Call newspaper. I would visit friends in the neighborhood or take the bus up there if I needed some Muslim oil from one of the street vendors who used to be posted up in the area. But that was it. Then a whole host of new restaurants opened in the area, particularly Caribbean spots, and I frequented those for a few years until recently they seem to have died out. During that time I spent an evening or two in the DJ booth at a neighborhood bar with a friend of mine on a couple of occasions as well.

It's been a weird cycle.

Now it's tough to even take the bus through the area on the way to the stores out on Boston road because of how terrible of shape the actual roads themselves are. I don't know how people with cars can manage the roads in such shape.

One thing you seem to have completely neglected to mention though is the fact that American International College is smack-dab in the center of that part of the city.

Tony said...

Thanks for the timeline El, That neighborhood is indeed constantly in motion - forwards or backwards. And thanks for reminding me about the suit-wearing fellows handing out pamphlets on the traffic islands.

Your right, I totally left AIC out of the post, I guess for two reasons: 1st, I didn't get any good pics of it.

2nd: though it is right smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood, (and I could be wrong about this), but I'm not too sure it has any effect at all on the neighborhood. I never see any students cross the street, never see any students going in or out of the stores. Never hear any news stories about it spending any of it's money on the neighborhod. It kind of sits there like a big rich white elephant in the room.

If anybody knows that I'm wrong about that, please let me know...