The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Architectural Boondoggles

I went to Springfield yesterday. At the stopover in Holyoke I took this picture of Veteran's Park out the bus window.

Arriving in downtown Springfield, I walked past the old courthouse on Main Street, which the late Springfield Republican columnist Richard Garvey once called "the ugliest building in downtown Springfield."

I never thought it was all that ugly, but I do think it was tragic the historic bloc of buildings that were torn down to build it. Moreover, the building was badly designed and had to be replaced recently with a whole new courthouse, even though the old one was just built in 1982! Perhaps the only virtue of the now closed courthouse was that being that it was a federal project it was the only way the local Democrat Machine could be forced to immortalize Ronald Reagan in stone.

The ugliness of the building may be beyond redemption, but I see that the plaza in front of the former courthouse is undergoing a desperately needed remodeling.

That plaza was always very impractical, with weird brick formations that were uncomfortable to sit on even before the security guards started forbidding people from sitting there after 9/11. Following that attack, the Albano Administration ordered big cement barriers to be placed all around the front of it, which looked absolutely hideous. It was justified at the time by the fear that government buildings were targets for terrorist attacks, but an attack on Springfield always seemed very improbable.

Deep in a cave in the uncharted mountains of Pakistan, Osama bin Ladin and his followers are holding a meeting. "O Evil One!" a gnarly Arab cries, placing a pile of maps and plans before his master. "We have prepared these plots for your consideration regarding attacks on Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, plus a new attack on New York City!"

Osama bin Ladin angrily sweeps the papers off the desk and on to the floor. "You camel dung!" he exclaims. "I should have you all boiled in oil! Where are the plans to attack the courthouse in Springfield, Massachusetts?

Shortly after he was elected to succeed Albano, Mayor Charles V. Ryan quietly ordered that the unsightly barriers be removed.

Almost next door is yet another famous boondoggle, although a more aesthetically pleasing one - Monarch Place.

Like all of the government's attempts to revitalize downtown Springfield, Monarch Place was a total flop, crashing into bankruptcy within only a few years of its completion and ultimately sold to its creditors for one dollar. Bus magnate Peter Picknelly stepped forward and bought the skyscraper for pennies on the dollar, which saved the building from having to be shut down, although the low price he paid did not prevent the taxpayers from taking a multi-million dollar bath. Plus, because the cheap price he paid freed him of the construction debts and entitled him to special tax breaks, Picknelly was able to offer cheaper rental prices than his unsubsidized downtown competitors. This caused many offices who rented in buildings surrounding Monarch Place to leave their former residences and move there. So while Monarch Place prospered, the rental properties surrounding it were emptied of tenants, until the downtown real estate market collapsed and the whole area was ghettoized.

Compounding the tragedy, a beautiful and historic building had been torn down to erect the ill-fated Monarch Place - the Forbes and Wallace building.

To calm outcries from historians, Monarch Place was built with a cheap memorial to the old building in front.

If you want to see what the old Forbes and Wallace building was like, a virtual twin of it still exists in Northampton in the Thornes Market building. While Monarch Place was going bust, the Thornes building in Northampton was turned into a thriving mall of boutique specialty shops that is still a success to this day. The Forbes and Wallace building could have been the anchor for an equally successful downtown revitalization in Springfield, had the idiot politicians not pursued the Monarch Place project for the all contracts it could provide for their insider friends.

If the crimes against Springfield by its political class were ever to be known in full, the citizens of Springfield would riot in the streets.

An exploration of the musical outer limits in Easthampton.


Anonymous said...

Check out how they are ruining the green in downtown Westfield next time your in town.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure the former owners of the Cedar Chest in Thornes Marketplace would agree to your view of that project's viability, Tom.

Tom said...

Ha! Well, things are tough all over, but it's still a shame about the Forbes and Wallace building.