Meet with square's original architect to get consensus
The Springfield city square is an early work by Lawrence Halprin, America's most famous landscape architect. Halprin designed the visitor's attractions at Yosemite National Park, Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, Sea Ranch in California and the new FDR Presidential Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Springfield city square has the most distinguished pedigree of any building or project in our town. It came from a lengthy design process that included (I'm told) nine design revisions which are archived at the University of Pennsylvania.
People in Springfield want a square that is bright, well lit, accessible and programmed with cool events. We can spend our $800,000 (plus change) federal dollars for a new square or we can upgrade the Halprin design.
In the past year of public meetings, none of our design team bothered to call Halprin and ask his opinion, but I did. He is 91 years old, alert and interested in our square, just as he was 38 years ago. He is extremely kind and supportive. He said our square needed enhancements and he is willing to spend time with a Springfield delegation to "reach a consensus." He wants to meet with four people.
The city has applied for federal money to demolish our square, but that money comes with strings. In brief, permitting cannot legally begin until a Section 106 review has been completed, which results in a determination of "no historic resources," "no adverse effect" upon historic resources or "adverse effect" upon historic resources.
I predict Springfield is in for a long and bitter fight if we try to spend federal tax dollars to demolish Halprin's work.
If we are smart enough to accept Mr. Halprin's offer, we can win four ways: preserve the Halprin landmark, honor the citizen request for improvements, stretch our tax dollars and do everything faster.
My City Council job pays nothing and drags me away from work and family, but I am willing to put a thousand bucks toward Halprin's fee of $10,000. We are talking about a meeting the first week of March at his office. I'm looking for three other volunteers.
Dan Chiles is a member of the Springfield City Council.