Losing Springfield Plastics

April 15, 2013 70 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Springfield Plastics, built in 1922 and located on small commercial strip of Pearl Street, has become a building in need of protection. Its story is the same with many commercial properties in Springfield -- once proud structures which provided jobs and products for the neighborhood, now stand vulnerable and in danger of being lost.

Tom Metz has owned this building since 1981 when he set up shop "Springfield Plastics".  He fabricates plastic pieces for boats, for art, and for many other applications.  This space occupies the retail section of the building.  It is filled with all manner of items needed for making things out of plastic.  Upstairs there are two lovely three bedroom apartments -- original ones, not the "carved out of any space kind of places" that you often see in Springfield.  These apartments are in the process of being refurbished (although, this process has probably been happening for quite a while).

In 2009, when his health began to decline, and his business was barely limping along, he did sink money into structural repairs to his building including a new roof. Still there are issues which need to be addressed.

Earlier this week, noticing a "bulge" in the exterior wall, code enforcement condemned his building.  Naively, he let them inside to show them the space.

By Monday, the power will be cut.

Tom removed a drop ceiling from his space and so has exposed electric wires.  He has window issues which need repair.  He has the "bulge" which is from rot around the window.

But his building is not in danger of collapse.

When we asked Tom to show us what code is requiring him to do, he pulled out the standard form which just indicates "entire structure" needs repair.  No specifics.

Perhaps there is a better way to do this.

There is no doubt that the building requires some attention.  He needs to pull a permit to fix the structural issue on the side of the window.  All of his windows need some work.  He also needs to deal with the ceilings, perhaps replace the drop ceilings which he took down (which were housing the electric wires).  These things are doable -- if he can remain open and remain fabricating his plastic.

Not if he has to vacate.

Now, he has lost his business and lost his home.  His building sitting condemned with a mortgage (albeit a small one) is undesirable.  And Springfield has lost a business.

We need to change condemnation policies.  We need to give people a chance to fix their problems.  We also need to make the condemnation process an educational one.  The items for condemnation need to be specific.  They should guide the renovation process and be a map toward recovery.

There is a way to ensure that buildings are safe and not break the spirit of people or of a neighborhood.

Article by Gloria Devall