Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, Executive Director of Parks, Buildings, and Recreation Management Patrick Sullivan, Park Commission Chairman Brian Santaniello, and Director of Capital Asset Construction Peter Garvey announce the opening of the renovated Riverfront Park, Stearns Square and Duryea Way. Riverfront Park, located on Hall of Fame Way, had a $3.1 million budget for renovations. Stearns Square and Duryea Way, located at Bridge and Worthington Streets, was a $1.95 million dollar project.
Funding for the renovations at Riverfront Park were made possible by a $400,000 PARC grant from the Division of Conservation Services, one million dollars from MGM Springfield, and $1.7 million from the City of Springfield. The project included renovation of Festival Field, new drainage and infrastructure upgrades, and site amenities such as fencing, lighting, and picnic tables. The entrance has been formalized with new walkways, a splash pad/fountain, and houses the 9/11 Memorial and a 60-foot flag pole.
Riverfront Park originally opened in 1977 to celebrate the United States Bicentennial. Over the years there have been upgrades to the park with the construction of the Connecticut River Bikeway Project. This renovation was critical to improving the park’s infrastructure and also to protect the flood wall system. The new design offers an open concept, eliminating the many mounds and unusable green space. The new park offers more passive recreational opportunities, and caters to all ages with play space and a splash pad fountain. The city has entered into discussion with Amtrak to review Phase 3 of the park improvements, and over the next six months the city will encourage all park patrons to enter the park by utilizing the underpass north of the current entrance or by using the crossing by LA Fitness. It is the goal of the city to work with Amtrak to construct a permanent entry at the underpass, eliminating the need to use the city-owned crossing at State Street.
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno stated, “Riverfront Park and Stearns Square are two jewels of our downtown Metro Parks. The improvements made at these parks will allow future generations to enjoy this open space for many years. I also would like to thank MGM Springfield for their involvement in the Riverfront Park project and their donation towards this renovation allowed the city to complete Phase 1 and 2 of this exciting project. I would also like to recognize the Bicentennial Committee for their donation of the flag pole to the project. Committee members Paul Sears, Jim Tourtelotte and Dan Walsh have put forth tremendous efforts in securing these funds. We encourage all residents to visit Riverfront Park and pay their respects at the 911 memorial that will be formally dedicated on June 19th.These parks will be a welcoming oasis to our residents and all that visit our city.”
Patrick Sullivan, Executive Director of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management, stated, “The city takes great pride in these renovations. Riverfront Park was originally constructed in 1977 and the new layout is conducive to the intended use of this open space. The removal of the small hills/mounds throughout the south end of the park opens up the area and the project expanded the seating for Festival Field. Concealed areas have been eliminated, which will engender a relaxing and calming experience for all visitors. We are excited to have incorporated the playscape and splash pad into our plans, which will be a great asset to the downtown neighborhood residents. Stearns Square and Duryea Way improvements are a testament to Mayor Sarno’s commitment to our great park system. We appreciate GZA design services which honored the original design of these parks while embracing the needs of a modern urban downtown district. “
Brian Santaniello, Park Commission Chairman, stated, “This is great news for the patrons of Riverfront Park and Stearns Square. I am especially pleased with the new entrance and site amenities. This renovation sets the tone for a great experience on the two-mile stretch of the bike/walkway, and completes the goal of the Park Commission to connect Riverfront Park and North Riverfront Park. All portions of the bikeway now offer a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere. Stearns Square presents the opportunity to enjoy a tranquil green space in the heart of the restaurant district. I would also like to extend a special thank you to Mayor Sarno, who continues to find the funding to improve our Park System.”
Pete Garvey, Director of Capital Asset Construction, added, “These two projects have offered a great change of pace to our department’s usual school construction projects. It has been great to work with the Parks Department and area businesses to create and enhance these critical open spaces for our downtown metro neighborhood. Much of the work completed was drainage and infrastructure and even though not visible, this work is critical to ensure that these parks are now ready for extreme weather conditions and can structurally support the intended programming.”
Stearns Square Park and Duryea Way Upgrades
Stearns Square/ Duryea Way renovations were funded by $1.6 million in city funds and a CDBG grant of $300,000. Situated in the city’s current-day Innovation District, Stearns Square and Duryea Way have a sense of historical significance about them. Stearns Square was developed in the late 1880s as a public sculptural park by Chester W. Chapin, a Springfield native and wealthy businessperson. Chapin commissioned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and architect Stanford White with the hope of transforming a derelict part of the city into a vital civic and social center. Across Worthington Street, Duryea Way is another historically significant public space that was in need of restoration. Named after the Duryea brothers, who were the first Americans to build a gasoline-powered automobile, the pedestrian way is the site where the Duryea brothers built and test drove the country’s first gasoline powered automobile.
The City of Springfield has transformed and breathed new life into these two important public spaces. By investing in this area, the renovation and new programming that will follow will serve as a catalyst for future investment and community engagement in the Innovation District and downtown entertainment area.
It was the City’s expectation that Stearns Square and Duryea Way will receive increased pedestrian traffic due to the completion of Union Station and the transformation of the Innovation/Entertainment District. Therefore, it was critical that Stearns Square Park and Duryea Way became more inviting, have improved visibility, and feature spaces that can accommodate outdoor dining. A “Preliminary Master Plan of Stearns Square Park & Duryea Way” was completed in May 2016 with input received from several city departments and stakeholders in a series of design review meetings in the spring of 2016. Those in attendance included the Department of Parks, Buildings, and Recreation Management; Department of Planning and Economic Development; Department of Public Works; Forestry Division; Department of Capital Asset Construction; MassDevelopment; Springfield BID; and several business owners. While many necessary site upgrades had been decided during the design meetings, it is the city’s intent that the redevelopment themes pay tribute to the deep historical roots of the area. As such, design elements that are compatible with the site’s historical interests and anticipated use were selected.
The restored Stearns Square Park is modeled after the original landscape laid out by White and Saint-Gaudens, featuring key elements in their original positions. As an enhancement, the restoration of Stearns Square Park reinterprets some of the spatial dimensions and plantings to ensure the space is best suited for Springfield’s 21st-century downtown culture. As considered by stakeholders during the Master Planning phase, the project has restored the pebble fountain; created widened brick paver walkways and pedestrian areas; installed new lighting; significantly enhanced the landscaping; provided extensive tree protection during construction; provided irrigation; and added ornamental and educational signage. The reconstruction of the sculptural pebble fountain includes bronze replicas of the original turtles. The original bronze fish globe has been cleaned and polished to its original bronze appearance. While the bronze features are either new or newly restored, the original pink ‘Bay of Fundy’ granite pedestals were so badly deteriorated they were unsuitable for restoration. New pink granite pedestals were cut to the exact size and dimension of the original pedestals. The fountain’s hydraulic features were fully reconstructed with modern and efficient equipment. The pebble basin has also been reconstructed using local river rock pebbles and cobbles as originally furnished. The existing pink granite seating bench has been repointed and cleaned and remains in its original location.
Per the Master Plan, Duryea Way and the abutting sidewalk on Worthington Street have been renovated to be an inviting, safe, aesthetically pleasing outdoor space. The reconstructed alley way features a singular row of shade tree plantings in circular planter beds flanked on both sides with decorative overhead lighting, which lends a formal feel, rooted in symmetry. The circular motif and curvilinear patterns of the granite curbs and circular benches tie into an overarching circular/ radial pattern representative of an automobile wheel.
The portion of Worthington Street that joins Stearns Square Park and Duryea Way was refurbished to provide additional aesthetic and practical benefits for local businesses, residents, and visitors. New, widened sidewalks and plaza areas accommodate outdoor dining and, with raised crosswalks for pedestrian access, serve to calm the passage of vehicular traffic flowing through the area.
To further celebrate the newly upgraded spaces, colorful banners will be installed in Riverfront Park, Stearns Square Park and Duryea Way. The banners will depict historical images of the three sites, including the Memorial Bridge, Duryea Automobiles, and the Puritan statue, and will further unify the downtown metro parks and invoke the unique and vibrant history of the City of Springfield.