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The walls came crumbling down Monday at the former HAPCO building on Main Street in the South End, praised as a continuation of revitalization efforts by residents and city officials.

Associated Building Wreckers of Springfield began smashing the long-blighted building at 727-729 Main St., shortly before 2:30 p.m., after advance removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials. The entire project cost $40,699, paid with federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds.

Neighborhood residents Leo Florian and David Mazza praised the demolition,

"It's just another step in the revitalization of the neighborhood," said Florian, who is president of the South End Citizens Council. "The time is right. We have a lot of new development going on down here in the neighborhood, and I'm sure this corner will be put to good use."

Mazza, a neighborhood resident for 57 years, said the removal of the building will help beautify the neighborhood.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said the city through efforts that include foreclosure of properties for nonpayment of taxes, is striving to tear down long-blighted, buildings in the South End and other neighborhoods "ASAP" when beyond repair.

"With these derelict properties, if you can't get them rehabbed and back on the tax rolls, many times they will attract a negative element," Sarno said.

"This building has been blighted for many years," said Tina Quagliato, the city's director of disaster recovery. "The tornado came through and added to the damage and then a car crashed through it and now the roof is collapsing and the structure is unstable."

The HAPCO building is just a few blocks south of the site of the Springfield MGM casino project slated to begin in the spring.

Quagliato said the HAPCO building had already been vacant and blighted prior to the tornado of 2011, but proposals to redevelop the site were not deemed feasible. The tornado and a car later crashing into the building worsened the damage and left it beyond repair, she said.

Sarno praised other development occurring in the South End, including the Outing Park housing development by First Resource and its president, Gordon Pulisifer.

The HAPCO building was demolished just days after a gas line was ruptured accidentally by workers last week that triggered an evacuation of nearby businesses and apartments.

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