There are a lot of exciting things happening here in Springfield Vermont! Some of it is
visible, and some is a little behind the scenes. But from the Springfield Regional
Chamber of Commerce’s perspective, business opportunities are growing!
A Glaciers Pace
Now that said, we have to remember it took the Ice Age millennium to change our
beautiful landscape. And while Springfield’s revitalization may seem like it is taking a
glacier’s pace, the ice is starting to melt. We are now beginning to see the fruits of labor
local heroes have accomplished over many years.
State of Interference
It is human nature to focus on what is in front of us, only listen to sound bites, and form
opinions from myopic points of view. We forget the old Chinese adage, “The flapping of
a butterfly’s wings can be felt on the other side of the world.” So many influences that
help and hinder progress here in Springfield are out of our control. While many state and federal controls are in place to protect us, they are written with such broad considerations that they don’t consider local nuances. Unfortunately, we have to comply with and manage these laws and policies. These laws and policies affect Springfield in a few areas:
Brownfield Mitigation, while extremely important, some aspects are less growth-friendly. The mitigation process and documentation requirements are slow and arduous. Also, the occupancy limitations restrict what businesses can operate in specific Brownfield locations, i.e., no residency, no food service, and no childcare. Restricting these services is a problem for Springfield as we try to increase housing and visitor business. Brownfield locations are out.
Flood Control is again well intended but based on 100-year flood plains and doesn’t consider Springfield’s flood control dam. While it was one of the only significant towns unaffected during the July rains, we are still restricted on where new buildings can be built because of the dam.
Blight Management is another frustrating thing that inhibits a lot of renewal around the Town’s ability to enforce blight ordinances. Building owners and landlords bought into the Town when things were depressed, thinking they would make a quick buck. Many of them are out of State and rarely, if ever, see these properties, let alone maintain them or monitor their tenants. It takes years and lots of money to get the State to allow the Town to take measures to add to the glacier’s pace of improvement.
The Visible Changes
As the blog title says, the dilapidated bus that has been an eyesore at the Parks and Wilson building for years is gone! The bus removal is due to the diligent work of the Town of Springfield and Springfield Regional Development Corporation battling with the property owner and the state courts. The property is now under town control and will begin Brownfield mitigation in 2024. Check out the Town’s Main Street Master Plan for a future glimpse of the property.
If you have driven down Main Street Springfield, you may have noticed work going on in the old SEVCA building and H&R Block building. Matt Dunn and his group are actively remediating the old asbestos and preparing the spaces for new tenants in 2024. Matt ensures the Chamber we will be happy with the new tenants.
Right next to Matt Dunn’s two buildings is the Odd Fellows Hall. It has fallen into disrepair and been an eyesore for years. Well, you can now see the broken windows are boarded up, and a lot of cleanup is happening inside the old Hall. Andre, an architect from Connecticut, bought the property in October and is renovating it. He has submitted plans to the Town and State Historical Society, and from what the Chamber can tell, it will be another beautiful landmark building on Main St.
Great Northern Liquidation
Since we mentioned SEVCA’s closing of all of their retail stores, it is encouraging to know that one of our Springfield Chamber Members is picking up where they left off. Great Northern Liquidation has been in business for several years in Springfield and recently relocated into the Plaza where Youngs Furniture was. They have a fantastic array of home goods, clothing, and other things you would have found at SEVCA. Plus, they take SEVCA vouchers! So, don’t despair; there is still an outlet for quality second- hand goods at reasonable prices.
The Less Visible
Much of this has been alluded to in the comments above. The hours and years of perseverance of the Town offices (Zoning, Town Clerk, Town Manager, etc.), Springfield Regional Development Corporation, Springfield on the Move, the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce, and our numerous service organizations have gotten Springfield to the glacier thaw. A few people and decades have come and gone, but progress is showing. In a recent gathering of state and local officials, Springfielder’s commented on the woes of their progress. State and Federal officials present commented that Springfield was a model Town. Instead of heading to Montpelier with their hand out, Springfield always sought their solution. Federal and State support came because of our due diligence and not because of a plea for help. That is Springfield Strong! That is Springfield Proud!!!
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Our plea to all of our Springfield Vermont Chamber members is to believe in the vision, support the Town, discover what is going on, and contribute to the Springfield Community. It takes a village or a group of rag-tag characters to follow the path and find our way home.
By Mike Schmitt, Chamber President