Home City Development Celebrates Grand Opening 11 Years After Tornado’s Devastation

On June 1st, MACDC Senior Policy Advocate Don Bianchi attended the Grand Opening of the Elias Brookings Apartments in Springfield. Home City Development rebuilt this beautiful building, with 42 rental homes and a spacious auditorium for resident and community use, on the site of the former Elias Brookings School, destroyed on June 1st, 2011 by the devastating EF-3 tornado that cut a huge swath through Springfield and nearby communities. 

The significance of holding this celebration 11 years, to the day, since that awful day, was not lost on the presenters or the attendees.  In addition to hearing from leaders of Home City Development, one of MACDC’s Western MA Members, there were remarks by Congressman Richard Neal, State Senator Adam Gomez and Rep. Bud Williams, as well as by Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno and representatives of project funders. Among all of the speakers, the most powerful was Terry Powe, the Principal of the Elias Brookings School (which has been rebuilt on a nearby site) who was the principal on that day 10 years before.  With imperfect information, she made the decision to close the school that day, and so, when the tornado struck the school building just past 4:30 p.m., students and teachers who would normally be there for after-school activities were instead safely home.   

After the presentations, a few of the residents graciously made their homes available for a tour. The units, which were renovated with great skill and care, each contain a chalkboard. The building’s renovation included other historic features: terrazzo corridor floors, a wood gymnasium floor, and carved “grotesques” (pictured above) featured in classroom corridors.