The Main Street section of the South End in Springfield, which is largely known for its Italian restaurants, delis and grocers, was heavily hit by last June’s tornadoes. The section has already started to rebound with grants, insurance claims and private funds. Rebuild Springfield, a partnership formed by Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, DevelopSpringfield and the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, has been offering grants up to $10,000 to help renovate storefronts in the South End.
Although the area is still visibly damaged with boarded up storefronts, stripped trees, and tarped roofs, Rebuild Springfield recently unveiled a “master plan” mapping out the path to recovery.
Rebuild Springfield hired Concordia, LLC, a New Orleans based consulting group, to help with the rebuild project. Concordia has been involved with past disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina, producing the Unified New Orleans Plan. The plan was developed to unify the fragmented relief efforts in New Orleans and the surrounding areas.
According to Rebuild Springfield, 74 small businesses and nonprofits were affected in some degree in Springfield alone. Since then, 47 of these establishments have reopened in their existing locations, with 18 moving into temporary or new spaces. Nine businesses are still seeking new spaces.
The grants, which were available prior to the tornado as a way to rejuvenate the downtown area, have since become less of a consolation and more of a necessity for the impacted businesses. The grants offered require a 25 percent match by the business.
Milano Imports, a market and deli that’s been on Main Street since 1968, was in the direct path of the tornado and suffered significant damage. The owners were awarded the full $10,000 grant to help defray the costs of reviving their storefront, according to co-owner Nick Recchia.
“They were nice enough to help with the awning, the new front windows, the new signage for the front,” said Recchia, “The grant covered it all, we just had to pay the 25 percent.”
Business in the South End is back to normal or better according to some owners that have been able to reopen.
“I can’t really say how much percentage it’s been up, but we've surpassed the numbers last year at this time of year,” said Recchia, ”but I'm thinking maybe 10 percent.”
He cites his loyal following of customers as being a vital part in helping improve business.
The storm has also not stopped one new business from moving into the damaged area. A new eatery is already in the works at 912 Main St., to be called Carpaccio Restaurant. With the help of a $25,000 small business loan from the Office of Planning and Economic Development, the business looks to open this spring.
Joseph Pereira can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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About the authors
Students in Steve Fox's Investigative Journalism & the Web class at UMass-Amherst have teamed up with the Globe to take a close-up look at the painful process of rebuilding from the June 2011 tornadoes that killed four and devastated communities in the Springfield area. Their work will also appear in the Boston Globe. Steve joined the journalism faculty at UMass-Amherst in 2007 and has 25 years of experience as an editor and reporter for print and online publications, including 10 as an editor at The Washington Post's award-winning website.