A few months ago I sat down with Evan Plotkin (pictured) of Samuel D. Plotkin and Associates, Inc., based at 41 Taylor Street in downtown Springfield, to discuss some of his ideas about what the city needs to become revitalized.
In Plotkin’s view, the arts are an essential component to bringing life back into the central business district. For about five months, he maintained a blog on MassLive.com called Metro Musings where he shared some of his thinking.
Plotkin, who lives in Somers, Connecticut, has been working on a project to secure a location for some of his plans to take root. In the last several months he launched a Web site, Creative Capital Springfield, to help foster some of those ideas, along with his colleagues Ann Black and Linda McInerney.
The site mentions the former Paramount Theater, known also as the Hippodrome, as a potential location for both a performing arts venue as well as living space for artists upstairs. Plotkin said the location is one of many possibilities in Springfield, but he sees much potential in the surrounding neighborhood and the city in general.
In this first portion of our interview, we discussed some of the history and role of his real estate company in Springfield, some aspects of the conditions downtown, and an example of challenges faced by real estate professionals looking to attract workers to the central business district.
Evan Plotkin: The automobile, basically the first gas engine, was built in this building [on Taylor Street]. They called it the horseless carriage in 1895. The ironic thing is the car is what really [caused] the decline of the city. My grandfather, who started here in the 1920s, talked about this in speeches he gave in the 1940s—the decentralization of urban cities—and he started to see what was going on in the suburbs, that development was going outside because we had automobiles.
Heather Brandon: Was he excited or worried about that?
He was worried about it. [Shows framed maps] These are the real estate maps my grandfather made of the downtown central cities. I have one of Springfield. He coined the term “100 percent location.” He used to stand on street corners with a number counter, and count how many people walked by at 12 noon.
Did you grow up here?
For the most part. I was born in Chicago, and lived there for five years before I moved here. My father came here and joined my grandfather, who made the real estate atlases, and whose building is right over there. In fact, from my office, I can see where my grandfather started. So that was like, 1961, and my father sort of came to work for my grandfather, helping him to lease his office buildings, and manage his properties, and eventually Plotkin Associates Company formed from that. He started to develop relationships with a lot of doctors, quite frankly, and the idea was born of building medical office buildings. (more…)