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Agawam weathers economic downturn

Date: 7/27/2010

July 28, 2010

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM -- The town's businesses are hanging in there and the economic picture looks good, according to Deborah Dachos, director of planning and community development.

A few new businesses are scheduled to open before the end of this year including the Insurance Center of New En-gland's headquarters, Home Source Warehouse, Wendy's and McDonalds.

"We average 20,000 square feet of new commercial/industrial space annually. In a recession [that] is really good," Dachos said. "We haven't really lost very many businesses at all. We have the white elephants in the room that have been vacant for [a long time, however]."

Such white elephants include the Tennis Road property, the former Food Mart Plaza on Springfield Street and the Games and Lanes building on Walnut Street Extension.

Dachos said things are looking up for the plaza, now called Agawam Shoppes, as Home Source Warehouse would open next month. "We expect more interest in the plaza as a result. Nobody is going to come unless there is a main tenant," she added.

Home Source Warehouse will occupy the site previously rented by Steve & Barry's clothing store.

Dachos said she wasn't worried about a new tenant finding its way into "The Oaks" building on Suffield Street, where the Insurance Center of New England will soon house its headquarters, because of its size and visible location off Route 57.

David Florian, chief financial officer for the Insurance Center of New England, explained the company will move its 35 employees from its West Spring-field location to Agawam. They'll also renovate the location to include office and conference space as well as an exercise room for employees, and additional green space with employees' communal herb and vegetable garden to open Dec. 1.

Dachos said she maintains a dialogue with investors to develop the Games and Lanes building and the Tennis Road property.

She noted that Tennis Road poses a unique challenge because of the brownfield. "We've lined up a cleanup company for the site. It takes some degree of courage to get into a brownfield," Dachos explained.