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From Vacant Lot to Sanctuary, Springfield Gets Down and Dirty

vacant lot mon SPRINGFIELD, Mass — The residents of Liberty Hill Townhouses and Better Homes, Inc. celebrated Saturday after transforming a park in the Lower Liberty Heights neighborhood of Springfield into a Community Park.

Generally known in the community as Home City Housing, the organization’s property management affiliate, Better Homes, Inc. is a multi-service housing organization. It currently owns and operates 285 mixed-income rental units and manages an additional 168 units of affordable housing in Springfield, Holyoke and Northampton.

Better Homes, Inc. purchased the vacant lot from the City of Springfield at auction in the Spring of 2012, as part of the city-wide initiatives run by the Mayor’s Office trying tackle the problem of vacant lots. The initial priority was to fix up a blighted lot that was overrun by brush, trash, and even discarded needles, but the goal was to ultimately build a park that would improve the surrounding areas. Residents highlighted the need for an outdoor gathering and play space.

Bringing a basketball court to the site is part of an effort to provide youth with more safe activities. The young residents have been particularly passionate about basketball, attending tournaments and workshops throughout the city.

Derek Kellogg, a Springfield native and the UMass Men’s Varsity Basketball Coach said, “The project we are talking about here is going to
keep a lot of kids in a structured environment and keep them off the streets. More importantly to have a dream of maybe someday being a college basketball player, a professional coach, or a professional player.”

Kevin Kennedy, the Chief Development Officer for the City of Springfield also expressed his support for the project, saying, “I grew up in a number of parks
across the city, and the idea of keeping kids busy in today’s world and keeping them out of trouble and giving them constructive things to do is paramount. We’re very supportive of this from a city perspective.”

After two years of planning the space has been transformed from a, blighted lot to an open, green space with a picnic area and basketball court to be enjoyed by the community. The work was made possible by a $15,000 donation from the local McDonald’s, contributions raised through GoFundMe.com and collaboration with a local landscape architecture student from UMass, Samantha Anderson.

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