Daily News

Opinion: A Critical Vote for Springfield

The Springfield City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on a request to transfer $6.5 million from the city’s free cash reserves to cover cost overruns on a project to redevelop the former Court Square Hotel into market-rate apartments.

The councilors were informed recently that, because of the skyrocketing prices of materials and labor, the projected $51 million project will now cost closer to $64 million. The state has already said it is willing to cover half that additional cost if — and this is a big if — the city will pick up the other half.

Councilors were further informed that if the city doesn’t pony up the additional funds, and the project is stalled for any length of time, the property will likely deteriorate to the point where this project will simply not be feasible.

Some councilors have already indicated they are unlikely to vote for this request given other needs within the city and different uses for free cash, especially help to struggling taxpayers. We understand these sentiments, but believe it would be a costly mistake to let this project die on the vine.

These housing units could potentially play a key role in the ongoing revitalization of the city’s downtown and easing the city into what we’ll call the post-COVID world.

In that world, it seems certain that there will be fewer people working in the city’s downtown. If that area is to thrive as it did before COVID, there must be more visitors coming to the downtown district — and more people living there.

This project is not about restoring a landmark that has essentially stood idle for decades. It’s about creating opportunities to fuel more vibrancy in an area that was starting to rebound before the pandemic and needs an additional spark.

That’s why this vote is critical and why the council should approve this transfer and enable this important project to continue.