Springfield City Councilor Justin Hurst tears up plan to use COVID rescue funds to buy 3 downtown buildings

SPRINGFIELD – City Councilor Justin Hurst said on Wednesday the city’s plan to use federal COVID-19 recovery funds to purchase three downtown office buildings is a “blow to the face” for other neighborhoods in need.

Hurst, in a prepared statement, criticized the city’s pending purchase of the three properties for $ 2,750,000 at 113-115 State St., 1139-1155 Main St. and 11-21 Stockbridge St., all near MGM Springfield on Main Street and Master Plan for the convention center.

The use of federal funds for coronaviruses “is a blow to the many communities outside of the metro hub that are reeling from the impacts of the pandemic,” Hurst said.

The city said Tuesday it would close properties within 90 days with funds provided under the American Rescue Plan Act to continue the redevelopment.

The city has received approximately $ 100 million in ARPA funding “and the first major investment is to improve the downtown area as if other communities are not suffering,” said Hurst.

“The administration has already invested millions in the downtown area as a result of the casino, which only served to raise rents and drive out small businesses and minorities that had been there for years,” said Hurst. ” The final result ; vacant storefronts, which is why a master plan for the main street and the convention center was deemed necessary in the first place.

When announcing the purchase plans, Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said it was “a vital economic and redevelopment initiative”. This will ensure “that these key properties will not be underutilized or underdeveloped by questionable investors who have no intention of investing properly in our city and finding suitable tenants for this prime real estate area” Sarno said in a prepared statement.

The properties are purchased by the city through Freedom Credit Union’s Springfield Redevelopment Authority following a failed private auction in 2019. Following the auction, Freedom put the properties up for sale. for $ 5 million and a buy and sell agreement was made. in July 2020.

“The purpose of the (ARPA) funding is not to buy foreclosed properties to gentrify our downtown area and ensure that preferred developers with direct connections to the administration benefit,” said Hurst. “The objective of this funding is to support efforts to respond to Covid 19, to strengthen support for vital public services and to help preserve jobs, to support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses, and to address the systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the uneven impact of the pandemic. “

Springfield board chairman Marcus Williams and councilor Michael Fenton were among the officials praising the plans. Others praising the plans were Timothy Sheehan, city development director and Armando Feliciano, chairman of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority.

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