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DevelopSpringfield to Create Downtown Innovation Center

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Deval Patrick’s recent announcement of $2 million in MassWorks Infrastructure Program funding to MassDevelopment marks a critical step toward the creation of the Springfield Innovation Center. The project is a collaboration between DevelopSpringfield, the state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, MassDevelopment, the city of Springfield, Valley Venture Mentors, the Springfield Innovation Hub, and MassMutual.

“The Patrick administration has been committed to providing support to communities like Springfield so that they can grow and prosper,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki. “Revitalizing a community through infrastructure improvements will make it easier for businesses to grow and communities to flourish.”

The project includes rehabilitation of more than 16,000 square feet of mixed-use space, which will include a 9,000-square-foot business-accelerator program with co-working, presentation, and function space and an innovation café, as well as additional office space. “We are really looking forward to collaborating on this project,” said Paul Silva, co-founder of Valley Venture Mentors. “This new space will provide a home that will bring together more than 50 startups a year to collide with each other, investors, customers, and the local business community.”

The Springfield Innovation Hub’s goal is to create a series of “watering holes” throughout the Pioneer Valley with the flagship location being in downtown Springfield, said Delcie Bean, founder of the Springfield Innovation Hub. “These cafés will cater to audiences ranging from students to professors, business people to entrepreneurs, and just about anyone else looking for a cool, energetic spot to grab a coffee, have a meeting, or meet a friend. We will be featuring a mix of high-tech and low-tech solutions that will create a space that is both exciting and approachable. The objective of these watering holes is to create concentrations of energy and people where ‘collisions’ can occur. The Springfield Innovation Hub will be a 501(c)(3) organization which seeks only to spur economic growth and development by creating centers for energy, collaboration, and collision.”

DevelopSpringfield purchased a building earlier this month at 276-284 Bridge St. in a block of historic buildings known as the Trinity Block. On Oct. 20, the Springfield City Council approved the sale of a vacant adjacent building at 270-272 Bridge St. to DevelopSpringfield in the same block to support the project. Funds to advance the development of this project, including property acquisition and rehabilitation of the two buildings, have been provided by the Commonwealth through a MassWorks Infrastructure Program grant to MassDevelopment by MassMutual.

“Less than 500 feet around the corner from 1550 Main, the Springfield Innovation Center will represent an exciting addition to the city of firsts,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones. “MassDevelopment appreciates this vote of confidence in us from MassWorks, and looks forward to partnering with Mayor [Domenic] Sarno, DevelopSpringfield, and the local business community to continuing to make downtown Springfield a more attractive destination for businesses old and new alike.”

Planned rehabilitation includes the installation of an elevator, window restoration and replacement, mechanical-system upgrades, re-roofing, and re-pointing on the front exterior and interior fit-out for Valley Venture Mentors’ business accelerator and office space.

“The Springfield Innovation Center is conceived as a cornerstone of downtown Springfield’s newly designated Innovation District, building on the legacy of the area’s 19th-century history of industry and innovation, a wealth of architecturally significant historic buildings, and proximity to the downtown core,” said Jay Minkarah, President and CEO of DevelopSpringfield. The area was also impacted by a natural gas explosion in 2012, and the center will serve as a catalyst toward reinvestment and new development activity in this area. Added Sarno, “this is another initiative that will capitalize on the momentum that is building here in Springfield. This is another collaborative approach that we are taking to make downtown a more vibrant and eclectic mix of businesses and opportunity.”

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