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Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) Celebrates Grand Opening of Downtown Accelerator Space in Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD – Members of the Western Massachusetts business community gathered in downtown Springfield to celebrate the grand opening of a new space that seeks to incubate interesting innovations.

Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) held a grand opening party on Friday, opening the doors to their new accelerator space in Tower Square.

Within the space, VVM will offer coworking, training and event rooms for community and innovation parters in the area. Additionally, the mentorship program will serve as home base for 30 growing business accepted into their accelerator class.

Entrepenuers in the program are enrolled in a rigorus training program that works to overcome typical causes of startups to fail. At the end of the program, they are eligible to win $50,000.

Businesses in the accelerator program range from Artifact Cider Project, a hard cider producer based in Springfield, to Wonder Crew, which specializes in toys for young boys.

Approximately 200 people attended the grand opening party on Friday.

Jay Leonard and Scott Foster, of VVM, spoke of how excited they were to turn what was once a pool hall in Tower Square into the new accelerator.

Several local politicians also attended the event.

Sen. Eric Lesser said he hoped to support programs like the accelerator at the Statehouse. The Longmeadow Democrat told the crowd that he filed a bill to “promote more angel investors” in the Commonwealth. Additionally, Lesser said he’s preparing to file a bill regarding an east to west rail, to provide more transportation across the state.

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HitPoint Studios, Springfield-based game developer, expanding reach to mobile devices, smart TVs

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SPRINGFIELD – Less than a month after coming to the city from Amherst, game developer HitPoint Studios has announced another major business move.

HitPoint is using a $2 million investment package to build a new platform on mobile devices and smart TVs, a sort-of Netflix for gamers, but with a lot more bells and whistles.

MassMutual’s Springfield Venture Fund, River Valley Investors and independent investors put up more than half of the money to help the company build and release the platform.

Later this year, users will be able to download an app featuring potentially hundreds of “casual download” games with episodic storytelling. Completing one episode will unlock the next, and social media functionality will allow for sharing achievements and recommendations with friends.

The casual download category includes HitPoint titles like “Dr. Despicable’s Dastardly Deeds” and the “Fate” series. The company also created “Adera,” which Microsoft describes as the number-two top-selling game on Windows 8, as well as “Fablewood,” “Words in Space” and more.

New games are in the works, to be released after the launch of the platform later this year on the ebook device Kindle Fire. Android and iOS launches are expected soon after.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration slated for Monday at MassMutual Center


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Four area nonprofit organizations have teamed together for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, “Walking in His Footsteps” on at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield on Monday.

The event, which is free and open to the public, runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is hosted by MLK Family Services, Community Music School of Springfield, D.R.E.A.M. Studio and the United Way of Pioneer Valley.

“Dr. King’s legacy of peace, racial healing and equal access for all is greatly honored by these partnerships. Artistic and creative empowerment in the areas of music, theater and dance is essential to Dr. King’s vision of building a beloved community”, said Ronn Johnson CEO of Martin Luther King Family Services. “This year we are delighted to partner with United Way of Pioneer Valley, as we continue to expand upon Dr. King’s vision of building a just and caring community through volunteerism in the march toward social change.”

The celebration will feature music, dance, and spoken word, providing inspiration and reflection on King’s legacy with an appeal for volunteerism.

“The United Way of Pioneer Valley’s leaders and associates are looking forward to supporting this regional effort that fulfills its mission to mobilize people and resources to strengthen our communities,” Dora Robinson, CEO of the United Way of Pioneer said. “This Dr. King Day Celebration will offer UWPV an opportunity to inform individuals about volunteer and mentoring opportunities throughout Hampden County.”

The day will include performances by the Freedom Choir, Springfield Mass Choir, Community Music School of Springfield String City Youth Orchestra, DREAM STUDIO, and MLK Charter School of Excellence Choir.

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Springfield Falcons do it again when late rally turns loss into victory

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SPRINGFIELD – The Springfield Falcons were playing their third game in three days, and facing not only the best team in the Eastern Conference but a reasonably rested one at that.

But just when it looked as if a busy weekend would end on a flat note, the Falcons sprang back to life, claiming a 3-2 overtime win over Manchester at the MassMutual Center on Sunday.

In back-to-back games, looming defeat was turned into victory thanks to late goals. There is plenty of talent on this team, but also, there is character.

“Pretty exciting. We’re a winning team, I’m really proud of it and we just want to keep it going,” said Falcons’ forward Trent Vogelhuber, who scored the winner at 3:59 of overtime.

In a season marked by any number of thrilling finishes, this one might have been the best. Given Manchester’s place atop the Eastern Conference standings, it might have topped the events of Saturday night, when a goal in the final 1:29 of regulation set up Springfield’s 4-3 shootout win over Worcester.

The Falcons broke a tie with idle Syracuse and claimed sole possession of first place in the Northeast Division. They have 50 points, one fewer than Manchester, who claimed one point Sunday and has 51 to lead the Eastern Conference.

For most of the third period, it looked like this one just wasn’t meant to be. That changed when Josh Anderson tied it at 2-2 with 2:38 left in regulation, beating goalie Patrik Bartosek to the top corner from the slot.

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New England Public Radio’s Springfield Wins Award

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New England Public Radio

New England Public Radio

Kuhn Riddle Architects, who designed New England Public Radio’s new offices and studios in downtown Springfield, won an Honor Award from the Western Massachusetts Chapter of The American Institute of Architects at a December event in Amherst.

The award was accepted for the design of the new offices in the 127 year-old Fuller Building at 1525 Main Street. The jury, comprised of four architectural professionals from New England, was enthusiastic about the “great new use for (an) old building” and commented that the “textures and rhythms are great with a lot of integrity and detail.”

The jury also appreciated the re-use of the building’s existing cast iron columns.

“This award is very well deserved,” said Richard Malawista, NEPR’s Director of Broadcasting. “Architect Jonathan Salvon and interior designer Sarah Nolan understood what we needed and wanted very well. They designed interesting and attractive office space and equally appealing radio studios that meet all our technical needs and can be very proud of what they created.”

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“Park with Ease” Continues in Downtown!

Springfield – Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé have sang it, and it is true… “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”  As the temperatures continue to drop during our New England winter spending any more time outside than necessary is not pleasurable.  With that said, the Springfield Business Improvement District (SBID) is excited to share they are going to save you many cold steps.

The “Park with Ease” program, recently launched with great success, will continue through the winter.  “We are thrilled the community has responded so positively to our valet program,” shares Chris Russell, Executive Director of SBID.  “After many conversations with stakeholders in Downtown including building owners, business owners and community members; we kept hearing the same comment about parking issues so we have addressed the concern.”   

Two valet stations are set up each Thursday, Friday and Saturday along Main Street for your convenience.  Simply look for the signs and valet kiosk.  The first is at Court Square across from the MassMutual Center and the other at the corner of Worthington and Main Streets.  Car acceptance is from 5-9pm, with retrieval continuing until midnight.  The SBID is underwriting the service and therefore the cost to you is ONLY $5 to valet.

This parking solution allows the community to shop at Tower Square, dine at Theodore’s, Panjabi Tadka, Nadim’s, Adolfo’s, and the newly remodeled Student Prince/ The Fort.  You can also enjoy a Symphony Orchestra experience, a show at City Stage, a Falcon’s game, and more.  And when you’re in Downtown remember to enjoy the holiday lighting and the new architectural lighting recently installed to light up the City’s amazing buildings.

The “Park with Ease” program is in effect until further notice.

Springfield Union Station to get full build out


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SPRINGFIELD - Union Station in the northern blocks of Springfield’s downtown will be fully rehabbed to include shell space ready to be customized by  office tenants instead of being rehabilitated in stages and a four-level parking garage, not a two-floor garage as previously planned.

Union Station will  cost $75.6 million in state, federal and local funds, not the $68.3 million estimate previously published for the phased project. The new plans include $3.2 million in city money from the MGM Springfield host community agreement instead of MGM Springfield leasing office space in the Union Station.

The City Council will be asked to vote on the $3.2 million at its meeting Monday night.

Springfield officials announced the  revised plans for Union Station, which  will be called the Union Station Regional Intermodal Transportation Center, during a news conference Friday in City Hall. The announcement came as demolition crews continued to pull down the former baggage warehouse at the site.

The project is still expected to be completed in the fall of 2016, Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said.

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Peter Picknelly says Court Square boutique hotel advances in partnership with MGM Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD – Developer Peter A. Picknellysaid Friday that a proposal to convert a vacant six-story building at Court Square to a boutique hotel is nearing reality and would not be possible without the involvement of MGM Springfield.

Picknelly, the owner-developer of OPAL Real Estate Group, and Demetrios N. Panteleakis, OPAL’s chief operating officer, said they are excited about the plans for an approximately 120-room boutique hotel at the site at 13-31 Elm St. The project could cost $40 million, according to current estimates.

Previously, OPAL was planning to convert the long-vacant site into an office building. The Republican and reported twice in recent months a hotel project was being considered in partnership with MGM.

With the casino plans now moving ahead, a formal agreement between OPAL and MGM to move forward with the boutique hotel project is likely within the next 60 days, Picknelly said.

“We are really excited about participating in this great project for Springfield,” Picknelly said. “My father always thought it was the best use. A boutique hotel without MGM would not be possible. It’s good to see his vision of years ago is now likely to come to fruition.”


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Festival of Trees returns to Springfield

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Festival of trees 2014

SPRINGFIELD – A tradition returns to downtown with the opening on Nov. 28 of the 14th Annual Festival of Trees.

The fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield features elaborately decorated trees by area businesses, organizations and individuals. All of the trees will be raffled off at the end of the show’s run on Dec. 14.

Sarah Tsitso, executive director of the club, explained to Reminder Publications that with the addition of 11 trees this is the largest display in the event’s history.

She added this is the principal fundraiser for the organization, which brought in almost $100,000 last year. With the additions and new sponsors, Tsitso hopes the club will reach that $100,000 mark.


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Best Of Mass Burgers: 2014 contest winner announced

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The day MassLive readers and burger restaurants have been waiting for is finally here.

Our three judges – Ray Kelly, Nick O’Malley and Sarah Platanitis – have decided and the winner of the 2014 Best Of Mass Burgers contest is … Plan B in Springfield!

Plan B, the newcomer to the contest, wowed the judges with presentation, quality of meat and quality of service.

Nick O’Malley was keen on the “gorgeous some-pink patty, the chewy pretzel bun held up great, with a golden slap of cheddar and spiffy bacon melding with a wonderful sauce.”  Sarah Platanitis best liked the “Super tasty beef. Like the roll. Layers of toppings are distinct.” Ray Kelly enjoyed the “high-quality burger served with a spectacular side of truffle fries.”

We were sad to say goodbye to Local Burger, the 2011 champ and this year’s runner-up.  We enjoyed our visit and the burgers that we ate.  Nick O’Malley liked the grass-fed beef patty.  Sarah Platanitis thought the toppings were well-balanced.  Ray Kelly was especially pleased with his teriyaki burger, the best he has eaten since his visit to Maui.

Next week, the Final Four will visit the MassLive office for an awards presentation.  Official burger photographer Shaina Mishkin will take photos and we will interview the restaurant owners about their time in the contest and learn more about the business of burgers.

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