A decade-old mystery: When will benches return to Springfield’s Court Square?

The City says we could see them again after work is done on 31 Elm Street.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – There’s something missing in Springfield’s Court Square. There are no park benches, and there haven’t been since 2006. For just as long, 22News has been asking the City when they’ll return.

At first, in 2006, Patrick Sullivan, the executive director of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management in Springfield, said they would come back the same year they were removed. He told 22News, “It might be toward the end of the summer.”

Seven years later in 2013, he explained the benches were removed through a grant to restore Court Square, and would stay removed until renovations to the courthouse were complete.

But in 2012, Park Commissioner Jay Griffin said it seemed the benches were moved because they attracted homeless people. “At one point in time, there were folks that were soliciting funds and actually almost residing down there,” Griffin said.

Fast forward to this year, and still no benches, but a promise we’ll see them again. Sullivan said projects are now complete, like work on the courthouse. He told 22News, “Now the plans are coming together, we have all the benches. We’re just waiting for that last piece of the puzzle to come together, which sounds like we’re coming very close with that 31 Elm Street property.”

Back in 2010, the City released a statement saying they would put the park benches back, once there was a redevelopment plan for the Elm Street property in Court Square. Seven years later, there are plans for the redevelopment of that property. The City is finalizing plans with MGM Springfield to turn the former Court Square Hotel into apartments. Under an agreement with the City, MGM is required to provide 54 units of market-rate housing.

22News asked Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno when the benches would return. He said that if 31 Elm Street does turn into apartments, the park will become a construction area for a while. “That becomes a construction site, which would limit some type of activities there. Our goal, Kait, and I’m looking you straight in the eye, our goal is to get those benches back out there, at an appropriate timeframe, timing with everything going on,” Sarno said.

For the latest on MGM Springfield’s plans for building market rate housing, click here.