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Springfield Innovation Center Location Announced

Story courtesy of MassLive

DevelopSpringfield will transform two neighboring vacant Bridge Street buildings into the Springfield Innovation Center, a nursery and proving ground for the next generation of Springfield start-up companies.

The center would combine the Valley Venture Mentors cooperative work-space and advising programs along with an innovation cafe and rental space for companies that have outgrown Valley Venture Mentors’ space but are not yet ready to fully strike out on their own, said Jay Minkarah, president and CEO of DevelopSpringfield.

“This is part of a really comprehensive plan for revitalization in the downtown area and the innovation district,” he said.

DevelopSpringfield is a public-private partnership aimed at revitalizing Springfield. Other projects include demolishing the old River Inn on State Street and the ongoing work at the Gunn Block, also on State Street.

The innovation Center will spur the growth of new, smart companies in a variety of industries.

“The innovation side is really where we are seeing so much of the growth in Massachusetts,”

Innovation Center

Innovation Center

Minkarah said. “Springfield really needs to grow as a center for innovation and entrepreneurship.”

The Springfield Innovation Center got a boost Tuesday when Gov. Deval Patrick announces with a $2.2 million grant from the state’s MassWorks Infrastructure Program. Patrick also announced an additional $4.2 million for the refurbishment of Union Station on Tuesday.

Monday night, the Springfield City Council voted to transfer 270 Bridge St. the Emerald City Cafe  to DevelopSpringfield for $10,000.

DevelopSpringfield already owns the neighboring Doubleday Building at 276-284 Bridge St., Minkarah said.

Design work on the 16,450-square-foot project begins soon. He said he hopes that the core of the project, Valley Venture Mentors, can occupy the space starting in January 2016.

Valley Venture Mentors is currently using temporary space in Tower Square as co-working space. It’s a collaborative office where entrepreneurs can bounce ideas off one another, compete for prizes and work with mentors.

“There will be a ground-level presentation and function space, where entrepreneurs can come in for workshops and participate in pitch contests,” Minkarah said.

Pitch contests offer people with ideas for new business prizes based on a short “elevator pitch,” or a sales talk given in the time it takes to ride an elevator.

The Innovation Cafe is a notion put forth by Paragus Strategic IT CEO Delcie Bean and others. The idea is to have a hang-out for tech start ups with coffee and food as well as lots of computer connectivity and large computer display screens so business people can give presentations right at their tables.

Pending MassDOT Board Approval, Assembly of New Red and Orange Lines Cars Will Take Place in Springfield

Story courtesy of the City of Springfield, MA

SPRINGFIELD – Tuesday, October 21, 2014 – Governor Deval Patrick today announced that the MBTA will present to the Board of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) the recommended company to manufacture and deliver 284 new subway cars for the Red and Orange Lines, replacing decades-old vehicles. Joined by MassDOT Secretary & CEO Richard A. Davey and MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott, as well as state and local officials, Governor Patrick announced that the recommended company, CNR MA, will build a 150,000 square foot facility in Springfield to assemble the vehicles, creating over 250 new manufacturing and construction jobs in the region. The contract is pending approval by the MassDOT Board of Directors, which is schedule to meet on Wednesday to vote on the recommendation.

The contract with CNR MA will include the purchase of 152 new Orange Line Vehicles and 132 new Red Line vehicles to replace the 44-year old Red Line cars and 32-year old Orange Line cars. The contract also includes the option to purchase an additional 58 Red Line cars. The new cars will provide improved reliability, accessibility and energy efficiency. New car features include increased capacity and additional seating, wider and electrically operated doors, four accessible areas per car, LED lighting, modern HVAC systems and advanced passenger information and announcement systems.

“This is a critical investment in the future of public transportation in Greater Boston and in the economic wellbeing of Western Massachusetts,” said Governor Patrick. “It will open up opportunities for the residents of the Pioneer Valley by creating quality construction and manufacturing jobs that will propel growth in the region for years to come.”

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno stated, “CNR Changchun Railway, Welcome to Springfield and its back to the future! Our constant public, private and non-profit meetings and collaborative efforts in providing world class precision manufacturing education and training are paying off. Thank you to CDO Kevin Kennedy and our Economic Development Team, our positive Springfield story is out; we are a great City to do business in. Thank you Governor Patrick, Secretary Davy, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, “MBTA” and CNR Changchun Railway for your continued belief and investment in our Springfield – “all aboard”!

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White Lion, Springfield’s first craft brewery, draws big crowd at launch party


white lion

Story courtesy of MassLive.Com

SPRINGFIELD — Budweiser may be the “king of beers,” but the king of beasts may soon be taking a bite out of the the royal market share locally.

White Lion Brewing, Springfield’s first craft brewery, held a launch party at Springfield Museums Tuesday night, drawing an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd of more than 300 guests. Founded by Raymond Berry, the nascent operation currently contract brews in Ipswich, but hopes to open a brewing plant in downtown Springfield within the next two years.

The event was populated by movers and shakers in the city, including Mayor Domenic Sarno, former state Sen. Brian P. Lees and others.

“This is great for Springfield. Ray has really done this the right way,” Lees said. “As a former marketing major, he really has set it up to have the ability for it to be a home run.”

Berry was thrilled with the turnout. He said holding the event at the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History was both humbling and fitting.

“This is history for the city of Springfield, and it feels good to in this environment surrounded with all the great historical firsts of Springfield,” he said.


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Steeple repairs planned for Old First Church in downtown Springfield


Story courtesy of

SPRINGFIELD — The city will erect a fence around Old First Church beginning Monday as part of a project to repair damage to the steeple caused three years ago by the tornado that passed though Springfield.

The fence is needed to keep people away while the contractor, RAC Builders of Agawam, works on the steeple exterior using a large crane, said James Leydon, Communications Director for Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

The work is scheduled to last all of next week, weather permitting, Leydon said.

The repairs are a part of an ongoing effort to restore the building, which was constructed in 1818.

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Colonel Cleland Bestowed Honor of Big Balloons Parade Marshall

Colonel Cleland accepts office jacket from Col James Keefe, Wing Commander for the 104th Fighter Group and the 2013 Parade Marshal. Photo courtesy of the Spirit of Springfield

Colonel Cleland accepts office jacket from Col James Keefe, Wing Commander for the 104th Fighter Group and the 2013 Parade Marshal. Photo courtesy of the Spirit of Springfield


Springfield, Massachusetts—Today, Wednesday, October 15, 2014, Fred Christensen, Vice President for CBRE – Northeast and General Manager for Tower Square, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Judith Matt, Spirit of Springfield President, and Peter Lappin were joined by Colonel James Keefe, Wing Commander for the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base who bestowed the honor of the 2014 Tower Square Parade of the Big Balloons Parade Marshall upon Colonel Thomas Cleland who commands more than 450 students as the Air Force Junior ROTC instructor at Springfield Central High School.

When the Tower Square Parade of the Big Balloons steps-off on Friday, November 28 at 11AM, Colonel Cleland will lead the procession down Main Street from Lyman Street to Locust Street.  They will be joined by a Springfield’s own Cat in the Hat and several of his inflatable friends such as Smokey the Bear who is celebrating his 70th anniversary, Tweety Bird, Jim Hensen’s Spike, Santa, Peppermint Train and American Flag.  The balloons will need more than 200 balloon wranglers and 25,500 cubic feet of helium.

“As this year’s Marshal, I will march in honor of several segments of the Springfield community.  First, I will represent the fine staff and students of Springfield Central High School where I have taught for 22 years.  Next, as a 26-year US Air Force veteran, I will proudly march in honor of all active, Reserve, National Guard, and retired military members…especially my Cold War and Vietnam-era brothers and sisters,” said Colonel Cleland.   “Finally, two generations of our family will travel to Springfield to march with my wife and I to celebrate the wholesome family value of the Tower Square Parade of Big Balloons.”

Joining the celebration will an array of musical, motorized and marching contingents.  Santa will make his arrival in style high atop Springfield Fire Departments Ladder #1 before he takes his chair in Tower Square for their annual holiday open house.

The Parade of the Big Balloons is sponsored by Tower Square with additional support from Smith & Wesson, Chicopee Savings Bank, PeoplesBank, CBS3 Springfield, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, ABC40/FOX6, the Massachusetts National Guard, Springfield Business Improvement District, Springfield Marriott, and the Springfield Fire Department, Springfield Police Department and Department of Public Works, as well as WSHM CBS3 Springfield who will provide commentary from the reviewing stand.

Following the parade, the festivities will move inside Tower Square for their Holiday Open House from 11AM to 2PM.  Activities include performances by the Tanglewood Marionettes, Magic by Derke, Hilby the German Juggler, the Merry Stiltwalker, The Grinch and Dickens Carollers, as well as opening day for the Springfield Boys and Girls Club’s Festival of Trees.

For more information about the Tower Square Parade of the Big Balloons or to volunteer to be a balloon handler, contact the Spirit of Springfield at 413-733-3800 or visit

International Biergarten in Springfield hosts weekly ‘Walking Dead’ viewing parties

Story courtesy of


SPRINGFIELD — Fans of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” have been anticipating tonight’s season premier for months. Anyone looking for a fun place to watch the show with fellow zombie lovers can head over to the International Biergarten where weekly viewing parties will be held.

“I have been a huge fan of zombies since I was a kid,” said Eric Maldonado, of NightsTV, who is organizing the weekly gatherings. “My first zombie movie was George A. Romero’s ‘Dawn Of the Dead’ that came out in the late 1970s and from there I’ve been hooked. So having a series like the ‘Walking Dead’ just solidifies my belief that there are plenty of people who love zombies.”

The weekly gathering will include trivia games and prizes and food and drinks with a zombie theme. Drinks will be served by zombie bartenders.

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First details about reopening of Student Prince and the Fort revealed

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SPRINGFIELD – The first details about the reopening of The Student Prince and The Fort were revealed at the Board of License Commissioners on Sept. 25.

Peter Picknelly, Andy Yee, the restaurant’s new manager Anthony Evens and their attorney Paul Maleck appeared before the board for approval of transferring the liquor license to the new corporation.

The new company running the restaurant is a partnership between Peter and Melissa Picknelly and Andy Yee, whose family not only runs the Hu Ke Lau in Chicopee but also Johnny’s Tavern in Amherst and several other restaurants. The Picknellys will be the majority owners.

Maleck said Yee is a “partner at Peter’s choosing.” He added the Yee family was Picknelly’s first choice in running the restaurant.

Maleck said Picknelly “didn’t want to see an institution like The Fort closed forever.”

A new lease for the restaurant has been secured and former co-owner Rudi Scherff will be the “front person or maître de” for the restaurant, Maleck said.

Maleck explained a $350,000 upgrade to the facility is planned with a reopening date set for late October. Among the changes will be the wall removed from the bar that separated the original bar space with the newer lounge area. This is planned to improve the flow of people through the restaurant as well as improve sightlines, Yee explained.

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Presley Blake celebrates 100th Birthday in Downtown!

Prestley Blake joined by Executive Director of the Museums, Holly Smith-Bove.

Prestley Blake joined by Executive Director of the Museums, Holly Smith-Bove.

Last evening, surrounded by his family and many friends, Prestley Blake celebrated his 100th birthday at The Michele & Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts.  Although Mr. Blake’s birthday is not until November, he’s not waiting to start celebrating.  S. Prestley Blake and his brother Curtis L. founded Friendly’s in Springfield in 1935 with $547 from their parents. They grew the company in the postwar boom, selling to Hershey Foods in 1979.

A lovely dinner was served by the exquisite Marriott in Downtown Springfield and guests enjoyed performances by the Northfield Mt. Hermon choir, as well as the stunning art.  Art which includes Mrs. Blake’s son-in-law, Edgardo Abello.  Mr. Abello is being featured in the Starr Gallery of Watercolors with his paintings and drawings in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.  To learn more about the exhibit click here.

And to read so much more about Prestley Blake click here.

UMass Springfield offers workforce training

Story Courtesy of


SPRINGFIELD – People seeking workforce training will have another option in the city.

Workforce training classes are being conducted at the new UMass Springfield Center at Tower Square in downtown Springfield. The classes are the product of a collaborative effort between Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), Holyoke Community College (HCC), and theMassachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The program currently serves over 300 students annually, offering coursework geared towards adult basic education and workforce readiness. Thirty-two new students began classes in the new location on Sept. 15 that will meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Dec. 19. Directors of the program are optimistic that the new site will generate even more interest.

“It is essential that as a region we continue to scale up programs like our basic education and workforce readiness to provide an access point for those in need of an opportunity to enter a pathway to employment,” STCC President Dr. Ira H. Rubenzahl said.

These courses best benefit citizens whose educational attainment has not reached the status of high school graduate. The courses and their materials are free of charge to students who enroll. ll generate even more interest.


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BID announces new director and lighting project

Story Courtesy of


SPRINGFIELD – The Springfield Business Improvement District (BID) has a new permanent executive director, a new website and a new capital improvement plan.

The announcements were made on Sept. 16 at a press event during which BID Board Chair Skip Lessard announced that BID Executive Director Chris Russell’s appointment has been made permanent.

“He’s taken the BID in new and exciting directions,” Lessard said. “We couldn’t be more pleased with his performance.”

Russell was appointed interim executive director in January. His position was changed in August.

Lessard described the BID as an organization that “takes city services and enhances them” for its downtown building owner members.

Russell explained the BID has become partners with DevelopSpringfield in an effort to install architectural lighting that will create a “corridor of light” on Main Street from Falcon Way to Bridge Street from dusk to dawn. The project will cost about $400,000 and Russell hopes to expand it throughout the downtown area.


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