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March 26, 2015

Setting Up A New Canvas

Filed under: SRDC — admin @ 10:29 pm

(This column, by SRDC Executive Director Bob Flint, appears in the SRDC Spring Newsletter)

“All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain”

-       Herman Melville, “Moby Dick”

One can’t help but have some gallows humor when you consider the experience that SRDC has had with its ownership of the former J & L Plant 1.   We have now owned the property for 12 years (after a long period of trying to pry it from the hands of the Goldman Group) and it looks pretty much the same as it did in 2003, except for the crumbling bricks and rapidly deteriorating roof.

We have had struggles.  The contamination on the property is unique, in its magnitude and complexity.  The assessment process seemingly took forever with the sheer amount of work and the associated bureaucracy with every, single, step.  The conversations with public officials about the historic importance of the site were, at times, maddening and disconnected.

Then there was litigation to throw into the gumbo.  While we made progress on the above items, ultimately, we have been stymied for the past several years by litigation tied to an enforcement action against a neighboring property owner that is related to one of the contaminants that has migrated onto the J & L property.  That ended at the end of 2014 with a ruling from the State Environmental Court.

I look around carefully, up and down, before I say this, but it would appear there are no further barriers to moving forward with the cleanup and redevelopment of the J & L Plant 1 property.  Once you realize this, it’s actually very exciting!

In the coming months, you’ll hear about various grants and applications, bid documents and an “enterprise zone” designation.  Puzzle pieces that have been gathered over the years and hoarded away, waiting for this moment.  I’m not going to speculate on a timeline, but we are moving full steam ahead, finally.

Because, at the end of the day, we not only have a mission to accomplish, but there is a wonderful opportunity in front of us.  We will have 12 acres of flat land, with full utilities (and VTel fiber!) on a 4-lane highway, close to I-91.   Combined with the redevelopment of the former Bryants property (there will be work on the north and south ends this year), it presents a blank canvas for the economic future of Springfield and the region.

We will keep the membership, and public, updated as we move forward. It’s going to be an adventure, but one that I know will ultimately have a happy ending. Stay tuned, and many thanks for the support, as always!