Opinion: Catching the $4.2 Billion Wave
They called the event ‘The New Wave’ — and that’s an appropriate name for the annual update on Springfield’s business and civic projects.
Staged by the city in partnership with the Springfield Regional Chamber, this annual late-winter event, the latest installment of which was staged Tuesday at the Basketball Hall of Fame, has had several names over the years, most of them rail-oriented — to coincide with the long-awaited revitalization of Union Station and also to provide plays on words such as the city being on the proverbial ‘right track.’
Most just call this the ‘update meeting,’ and they’ve been staged for maybe six or seven years now. That timeline coincides with Kevin Kennedy’s arrival as the city’s chief economic development officer and his more aggressive approach to telling the city’s story. It’s also a stretch when there has been a much better story to tell.
Which brings us back to the title of this year’s presentation. What’s been happening in Springfield over the past several years can truly be described as a wave — a $4.19 billion wave that is gathering momentum, and riders, as it moves.
That number conveys the dollar value of business and civic projects since that fateful day in 2011 when a tornado roared through the city. It’s an impressive number that, of course, includes MGM Springfield (almost a quarter of the total), CRRC, and several other nine- and eight-digit projects. But it also includes dozens, if not hundreds, of seven-, six-, and even five-digit projects that all add up — to a wave of positive energy.
And while that number is impressive, perhaps the more meaningful one is $400.4 million. That’s the dollar amount for projects announced since the last of these update meetings, a number that reflects everything from Big Y’s $42 million distribution expansion to MassMutual’s $50 million in investments in Springfield; from the new $14 million Educare facility to the $14 million headquarters for Way Finders taking shape on the site on the old Peter Pan bus station; from the planned renovation of the Paramount ($41 million) to the soon-to-be-announced (we hope) plans to renovate the long-vacant Elm Street block. And we’re pretty sure it doesn’t include a whole host of cannabis-related businesses now in the talking stages and a planned hotel on the site of the old York Street Jail.
This is what happens when a city gathers momentum and the attention of the development community. People want to be part of what’s happening. People want to ride the wave.
It’s a refreshing change from a dozen years ago when people were talking about the lights going out in this city with doubts about when and if they would go back on.
They have gone back on — and in a big way. And there should be even more evidence of this at the next update meeting.