Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Do You Have Any Decaf Council...

Well it has been a hell of week. Not so much in the political world, but there, too. For those of you who may care, which I am sure is a minute minority, I have been out of town for a few days. "Where?" you may (or may not) ask. But our nation's capital. Yes, I was vacationing in the District of Columbia. But enough of that. I will (try to) get to that at a later date.

So anyway, the City Council in a rare act of chutzpah and wisdom told the developer of a Starbucks and Banks in Sixteen Acres at Wilbrahm Rd & Parker to engage in more community feedback with the hope that they may redesign their plans. The plans call for a small, but arguably past its prime retail structure to be demolished and replaced with a new building. The developers, Colvest Group, however, want to add the standard moat of parking. While this configuration is not uncommon to Sixteen Acres Center, the current structure fronts Parker.

While concerns about traffic are real (the Starbucks is intended to have a Drive-up window, residents and urban planners alike believe that the plaza, or at least the Starbucks and misc retail should front the street, too. In addition to hiding the cars, it also improve pedestrian access. The current scheme puts walkers at the mercy of over-caffeinated drivers. Such a scheme works on Main Street in Westfield set back from Route 20 in a major shopping district. It is unwise in dense residential neighborhood. Arguably, a great deal of customers will come by foot and alienating them is simply foolish.

Colvest seemed to agree in Downtown/South End where they built the city's first Starbucks, as it is nearly flush with E. Columbus Ave, the grapevine indicates that they had their hand in a similar project in Mason Square. Reportedly, they twisted the city's arm into approving a CVS complete with Parking Lot Frontage on State Street instead of agreeing to put the front door on the street and place the parking in back. This actually happened; whether it was actually Colvest, WMassP&I cannot confirm at this time.

Speaking of the City Council, Patrick Markey, Springfield City Solicitor, Library Commissioner, and resident announced his candidacy for City Council last Thursday. Were I not in Washington and had I known the Hotel had computers available to use, I would have updated Friday.

Anyway, Markey, pictured with Karen Powell, recent WMassP&I interviewee, kick
ed off his campaign with a flattering introduction by Mayor Charles Ryan. Markey was credited with helping the city collect back taxes using ordinance that provided for liquor license non-renewal to establishments that owed back taxes or whose landlords owed back taxes. His involvement with the divestiture of the Springfield libraries from the Museum Association was also noted.

The event's location itself echoed Markey's library roots. Markey's involvement goes back to being a legal advisor to Friends of the Library. His kick-off was held at the Cozy Club in Mason Square. That neighborhood suffered a loss when the Former Library and Museum Association sold the branch building. Thus coming full circle, Markey highlighted his efforts to improve the library while showing solidarity with a neighborhood that, pending a new branch being built, has had to cope with reduce library services.

Perhaps Markey's most memorable moment came when he praised the current city council as filled with good people, but not necessarily the right people. He emphasized the need for the city council to be good budget readers, good administrators, and good overseers. In that way, Markey attempted to crack the incumbents' lock on power without descending into mudslinging. There will be plenty of time for this blog to do that later.

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