Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning Studio and Student Research and Creative Activity

Publication Date

Spring 2023


GREEN, EQUITABLE AND LIVABLE - TRANSFORMING THE CORE OF MASON SQUARE takes a focused look at the Mason Square Planning District in Springfield, Ma and provides strategies for urban design and landscape architecture to support a community’s vision for the future.

The students engaged through various community meetings for the larger Mason Square district in the spring of 2023 and enthusiastically supported the ideas and thoughts that were expressed. brownfield at Wilbraham Avenue. The larger goal is to shape a district for everybody to create safe and beautiful streets, provide better connectivity to public urban green, enhance arts, culture and dining, and catalyze equitable housing and business opportunities.

Core Recommendations:

  • Ben Swan Way is a space that should be used more for temporary community events. More usable for people as a small-scale neighborhood hub for curbside dining, cultural events, markets, performances. Measures range from complete closing down for regular traffic to modest alteration of parking layout and introduction of pedestrian-friendly surfaces to slow down traffic.
  • Reduction of traffic speed along State Street and Wilbraham Road through reduction of lane widths and/or number of lanes, elevated pedestrian crossings, planting of big street trees, establishment of bike lanes and on-street parking. Implementation through phasing and testing.
  • Safe ways to walk back and forth from residential areas to the Rebecca Johnson and the DeBerry Swan School. Primary street corridors need more pedestrian-scale lighting, benches, and covered bus stops.
  • Former MCDI area should be developed with a diverse strategy that encompasses opportunities for small businesses and manufacturing including work/live/art, adult education, mix of affordable and market rate housing, hospitality industry and community services as a hub for the Mason Square community.
  • Food is an topic in the district that needs to be addressed at multiple scales and levels. Offering spaces for community gardens on vacant or underutilized lots can be a great opportunity to educate about food and create community. Local markets should cater to diverse income levels to provide food security. Food should be part of the local economy and display the ethnic diversity. The neighborhood needs more and various restaurants and places to eat.
  • Inclusion of art and activities that acknowledge black culture and the diversity of today. Embrace the racial history of the project area through expansion of community-building art events such as Fresh Paint, and commemoration of Nelson Stevens and AfriCOBRA (the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists).
  • Stronger pedestrian and bicycle connections from east to west. Underutilized land along the former railroad corridor should be used as a green spine for the community. The proposed trail “McKnight Rail Trail” should be implemented in phases to regain traction and credibility of the more than 30-year old planning proposals
  • The area of Springfield Water and Sewer Commission should be repurposed for recreation and housing to glue the neighborhoods together.
  • Illumination, color scheme, friendly appearance of storefronts is necessary that people feel safe 24/7.
  • Plantings with big trees can minimize heat island effects in the core area of Mason Square. Green roofs for new buildings, green facades and stormwater swales are recommended.

Editor: Chandana Palika

Copy Editor: Frank Sleegers