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Former Chestnut School slated for re-development

By Dan Cooper

Staff Intern

SPRINGFIELD Mayor Charles V. Ryan and Miramar Real Estate Management, Inc. of San Juan, Puerto Rico announced on March 15 plans to turn the old Chestnut Street School into a new set of condominiums.

"The school has been vacant for a couple of years and I was concerned I would have to tear it down," Ryan said. "This will ultimately help the North End."

The school was closed down in late 2004 after it was cited for 691 code violations. "This project provides a great reuse for the property while preserving its historical significance," Ryan said.

Ryan said he's been working on this project for about a year. "We chose this firm to create more than 100 condominium units at an affordable rate," He said. "This firm has built condominiums throughout Puerto Rico and New England.

"We hope to see a change within a year," Ryan added.

Ryan said he believes the potential owners of the new condominiums will be in the medical field. "We have 16,000 medical jobs in Springfield alone, and the location of these condominiums is ideal, since it's located near medical hospitals," Ryan said. Baystate Medical Center is located on Chestnut Street, and Mercy Medical Center is across the street.

"This is an exciting project that will transform the city," he continued. "It's a great opportunity for the North End."

The final project, called Chestnut Estate, will provide 110 dwelling units developed on the current structures, according to the plan presented by Miramar president Carlos Lopez de Azua to the city. Parking, amenities, and open spaces are included in the project.

Multi-family dwellings will be divided into two main buildings: Chestnut Gallery, which will utilize the original school structure, and Chestnut Courtyard, which is where the former theater, basketball court, and cafeteria were located.

The amenities Chestnut Estate will offer include a fitness center, meeting room, playground, and passive recreation areas, according to Lopez de Azua.

Lopez de Azua said the project will cost $25 to $30 million. The plans must first be finalized and private finances for the property secured before construction starts.

"We've done similar projects in the past to this one and they have flourished," Lopez de Azua said. "We are very committed to this. We will put every resource available into this project. We are now one step closer."

"The address is no longer useful as a school, so we're hoping to save it with this project," chief architect for Chestnut Estate Juan Penabad said. "The housing units will be custom tailored to the building's current design. We feel this will develop a sense of community."

Penabad said the project is a challenge from an architectural standpoint. "We plan to take advantage of the different rooms, though," he said.

Miramar Real Estate was founded in 1984 and has since developed and rehabilitated more than 2,000 housing units in Puerto Rico, with more than another 700 units under construction.