Thursday, November 6, 2008
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...