Getting to Real


Behold … the Power of Cranes.

Maybe that should have been the title placed on the latest update on economic development initiatives throughout Springfield, hosted last week by the city and the Springfield Regional Chamber.

Instead, they chose ‘Springfield, Rising to New Heights, subtitled ‘The Renaissance is Real,’ which is a serious play on the crane-themed invitation to the event. It features an extremely detailed rendering of the giant crane at the MGM Springfield site, which has become a very famous addition to the city’s skyline.

The crane art and the accompanying subtitle are appropriate when juxtaposed together. Indeed, countless people have said (out loud or to themselves) that they didn’t really believe the MGM project was real until they saw those cranes. (MGM President Mike Mathis would have a ready response in such cases: ‘We always thought it was real.’

In some ways, the same conversational tones can be used for the city itself, although when it comes to a true renaissance, the city will have to do better than the ‘crane test.’

While progress (totaling a whopping $3.307 billion in public and private investments) really does seem genuine on many fronts — from Union Station to the subway-manufacturing plant; from MGM to vast amounts of entrepreneurial energy; from new places for people to live, to new places for them to work and play — one might still have a hard time convincing those in the city, and those looking from the outside, that this is the real thing.

That’s because it’s easy to make people believe it isn’t. As evidence, look no further than the piece that ran in the Boston Globe this month concerning MGM’s casino, the city’s image problem concerning crime, and how the latter might impact the former.

Complete with a close-up shot of razor wire on a building downtown and beginning with what amounts to a recreation of a drive-by shooting just blocks from the MGM site, the story also includes this quote from City Council President Michael Fentin: “We have a perception problem. People don’t want to come into the city; they say “I’m not going into that war zone.”

We’re not sure what he was attempting to do with that quote — maybe draw a line between perception and realty — but all he really did was blur the line and make ‘war zone,’ the one phrase everyone will remember from that piece.

But in a way, he helped make our point. You can’t just say the renaissance is real, you have to prove it. And right now, the city still has some work to do in that regard.

The cranes in the sky will generate some believers, but to generate more of them, the city must continue to move in the right direction on crime and the perception of it. Even if  ‘war zone’ is extreme and represents the view of the minority, public safety remains a real concern.

And while doing that, the city must do more to tell its story — and tell it to people living outside the city limits. The story is good and getting better all the time, and others need to hear it.

Maybe with some additional PR and work to reduce crime, more people will come to the conclusion that this renaissance is, in fact, real.

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