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Developers look to Memorial Drive

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

CHICOPEE Associated Building Wreckers have made inquiries to the city's Building Department about the demolition of the former Orr Chevrolet dealership on Memorial Drive, Mayor Michael Bissonnette said last week.

The former car dealership sits on a six-acre parcel adjacent to the Wal-Mart and Friendlys property. Bissonnette said the parcel has not yet changed hands, but the interest in the building's removal could mean more development along the city's shopping strip.

He added that "big box" retailers generally seek 18 to 20-acre parcels to develop and that no developer has approached his office for assistance.

Bissonnette said Memorial Drive is in its "second heyday." He noted the first, in the 1960s and '70s, was spurred on by the economic engine provided by Westover Air Base.

The second one is also helped by the role Westover Air Reserve Base is playing in the local economy, the jobs provided by the many businesses in the industrial park surrounding the base and by the toll-free status of the western part of the Massachusetts Turnpike, he said.

Bissonnette noted there is still considerable development potential along Memorial Drive. He said he would be meeting with developers before the end of the month concerning a new use of the former Ocean State Lob Lot site near Wal-Mart. He could not release any additional information at this time.

The undeveloped woodlands between Granby Road and Pendleton Avenue may go on the market for development next year, he said. The parish of Saint Stanislaus Basilica owns the land and Bissonnette said he has been informed the parish council is considering making the property available.

Property near the entrance of the Turnpike on Memorial Drive may also be the site for more development, he said.

Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits is about to open near the Hu Ke Lau at the site of the former Burger King, as well.

Bissonnette said Memorial Drive was becoming "the hottest retail development [area] in western Massachusetts."