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Court Square, supermarket projects move forward

Date: 12/13/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – Although the prospect of a casino in downtown Springfield is the redevelopment story many people are talking about, the Springfield Redevelopment Authority (SRA) received reports at its Dec. 11 meeting about two other projects: the renovation and redevelopment of 31 Elm St., and a new full-line supermarket to serve the neighborhoods around Mason Square.

Demetrios Panteleakis, co-founder and COO of Opal Real Estate Group, told the SRA that work is proceeding on the renovation of the building back into an office block. He said that precise measurements of the building have been taken and abatement of lead, mold and asbestos has been defined. The roof has been repaired and an assessment of the building has revealed part of the basement on the State Street side will need structural steel reinforcement. Renderings of the finished building have also been completed.

Opal was named the developer of the six-story building in 2011. The block was built in 1892.

Panteleakis said the effort to secure financing for the project is ongoing. The restoration will use historic preservation tax credits.

Panteleakis said his company is “still optimistic” about the future of the project. He noted with a laugh how he had fallen through the roof during one inspection, something that has since been fixed.

“We’ve covered every square inch of the building,” he added.

Vandalism is still a concern, with thieves now looking at various historic fixtures, Panteleakis said.

“We need the building secure,” he stressed.

SRA Executive Director Christopher Moskal, said the SRA, which owns the building, has restored electrical service so a security system can be put back into place. He said the SRA is currently waiting for Verizon to restore the needed telephone service and then will negotiate with a security company to provide coverage.

When asked if there has been any pre-leasing interest in the business from prospective tenants, Panteleakis said, “there is a lot of interest, but what will be challenging for the building is once – or if – there is a major development across the street.”

Panteleakis was referring to the MGM Resorts International casino that would be on the other side of State Street.

The prospect of MGM’s project becoming a reality does make Panteleakis “feel more confident” about 31 Elm St.

He explained that once construction begins, the renovations should take between 12 and 13 months to complete as 90 percent of the work is indoors.

DevelopSpringfield President and CEO Jay Minkarah appeared before the SRA to ask for a change in the urban renewal plan along State Street so organizational work on a supermarket could continue.

Minkarah said the proposed full-line supermarket would be in a 4.5-acre site that is bounded by State, Walnut, Union and Oak streets. The largest part of the site is a parking area currently used by Springfield Technical Community College students.

The access to the supermarket would be on State Street where there is currently a car wash, he explained.

The supermarket would be 45,000 square feet, which is about four times larger than the supermarket at Mason Square. While Minkarah said it would not be as large as the “super stores” in the Springfield area, it would be a “good, decent size store.”

At this time the store would not have a pharmacy, since there are two drugstores already in the State Street corridor, he said. Minkarah noted that residents have asked to see a full-service bank in the area as well as Dunkin’ Donuts.

He said there is an operator interested in the project, but no agreement is in place.

Minkarah said DevelopSpringfield is hoping to file the site plan by March 2014 and to break ground later next year.