The old bus station across the street now serves only as the corporate offices of the Peter Pan Bus Lines.
Here's a nostalgic tour of the charming old bus station.
Just the other side of the arch, this sign still remains from the long gone and lamented Playtown, beloved of school skippers from several generations. For some reason someone nailed a board through it, perhaps to prevent it from falling down.
Jake's diner is still around, having survived many phases of downtown's decline.
This new place appears to be an attempt to establish the kind of hipster coffee shop culture one expects of a cosmopolitan downtown, perhaps in anticipation of the future crowds of people they hope will be wandering around when the MGM casino opens in less than a year.
The Mocha Emporium is practically the only sign there is of anticipatory economic activity related to the casino. Instead, nearly all the major downtown structures have vacancy and for lease signs on them. Wouldn't you think, if there is faith among the local business community in the casino's success, that investors would be snapping up these rental properties for future projects designed to cash in on the casino?
At the corner of State and Main, the casino itself is rising behind black screening.
Everywhere is the contrast between the old run-down South End and the promise of future glamour.
Develop Springfield doesn't look like it's doing much developing.
The building across the street from the casino itself is a boarded up ruin. If any property would be expected to attract business investors, wouldn't it be the structure exactly across the street from the casino entrance?
As the casino rises, the old Red Rose Pizza is starting to look a little lonely as one of the few businesses still surviving in the neighborhood. A person known to know such things told me that MGM offered the owners of Red Rose $13 million dollars to go out of business, but they turned them down.
I hope they know what they're doing. Casinos have a reputation for going to extraordinary lengths to prevent people from leaving the casino complex once they get them inside. They hire experts to examine with scientific precision exactly why people depart the casino, and then they go to great lengths to eliminate whatever the reason is their customers are leaving by providing that service themselves in a superior way.
If their scientific studies reveal that people are leaving the casino in order to get some exceptionally good pizza available elsewhere, they will probably do something like import a master pizza chef directly from Italy and put him to work in a space designed to make you feel that you are dining in an authentic Italian pizza parlor in Rome. Typically, the casino will then devote some of their big gambling profits to subsidize the cost of the pizza (just as they often do with drinks and other entertainment in order to keep you from leaving to go to outside bars, restaurants or other attractions) so that their gourmet pizza offered in a stylized Roman setting will cost less than half the price of anywhere else downtown.
It will be interesting to see how our friends at the Red Rose deal with that kind of competition.
Around the corner from the casino site is Court Square, which is also devoid of any businesses. Not even the old barber shop that had been there since 1892 remains, although their sign does, right beside a painting of Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno.
There is also a painting of the late Tony Ravosa, who in his day was sometimes called "The King of Court Square."
This September 2003 entry from The Diary of J. Wesley Miller offers a poignant description of the Ravosa family's Court Square estate:
After voting I headed downtown to tour Ravosa's place on Court Square, officially known as the Chicopee National Bank Building, which is up for auction at the end of the month. Of course I have no plans to bid, but they don't know that....
I headed over to the Civic Pub where I met as planned with John S. Williamson, Vice President of CB Richard Ellis of Hartford. He is a short, very friendly and accommodating man who said he would give me a tour of the property. He said the building is steam heated but we couldn't go down in the basement. We took the elevator to the second floor where Ravosa's law office is with diplomas and certificates on the wall. On the third floor was another modern but unused law office. It had brass chandeliers which I recognized as being from Ravosa's old club The Bar Association.
I told Williamson that I'm no fan of Peter Picknelly, but I think Picknelly would be the perfect owner for this building and he agreed. Then we took the elevator up to the top floor and into Anthony Ravosa's apartment. I've never seen a private residence downtown as wonderful as Ravosa's place. You walk out of the elevator and you are in a two-story cathedral like space that is very ornately decorated. To the left is a spiral staircase leading to a loft and a stained glass window with a sunset motif. It was too superb for words.
The living room has a huge television built into the wall and there is an ultra-modern gourmet kitchen with marble counters. We did not go into the bedrooms in back nor did we go up on the rooftop to see Mrs. Ravosa's famous garden. Yet there is no question that of downtown homes Ravosa's is the star attraction.
The whole apartment is a celebration of urban life, and what a complement it would have been to the vibrant city Springfield once was. Tony Ravosa has many flaws, but he loves life and he loves Springfield, and yet he was shunned by the dull, dim-witted mediocrities who run this city and who could never even pretend to match his vision. I walked over to the window with the sunset motif and pointed out to Williamson how through that majestic window you could see all of Springfield's major towers, including the courthouse, Court Square, First Church and even the Springfield Armory off in the distance.
I heard Williamson asking me, "Attorney Miller, are you alright?" Suddenly I realized that there were tears running down my face, so I took out my black handkerchief and wiped them away. Then we took the elevator back down to Main Street where I thanked Williamson for the tour and promised to send him some postcards. After we parted I started walking up State Street towards my car. Russ Denver was walking past the Civic Center and waved cheerfully but I was in no mood to stop and just kept walking.
Among the celebrity paintings designed to conceal the empty storefronts is this one based on the Grateful Dead. Who says this town ain't got no heart? Ya just gotta poke around!
I was among those who did not want the casino to come to Springfield, in part because with its long history of public corruption, Springfield is uniquely unsuited to host a casino. However, now that it's almost here, I want the casino to be a success. However, my Main Street stroll showed me little evidence that investors and business entrepreneurs are coming to the table as yet in anticipation of sharing in the casino's presumed success. What I see instead is our Valley holding its breath, watching the casino go up, but hesitating to make any investments. Maybe that will change as the Grand Opening approaches, but we are less than a year out, and if the casino is going to bring the downtown as a whole back to life, so far there is little evidence of it. Right now, the only game in town appears to be "wait and see."
Meanwhile, in Washington Congressman Richard Neal, whose committee will be crucial to writing tax reform laws, has been meeting with President Trump to discuss the details. Neal doesn't look too happy in this photo from Politico.
Finally, did you know that Amherst has a new rotary? It works, you can indeed drive round and round in your car, although reviews from pedestrians are mixed.