FAQ About the PVDC/Fellows Project
By Bob Flint, SRDC Executive Director
There has been a lot of excitement about the redevelopment of the PVDC/Old Fellows property since the public announcement was made in April. In recent weeks, there also have been a lot of nervous whispers and questions about the project.
This has been, and continues to be, the primary focus of Springfield Regional Development Corporation's work in Springfield at the moment. Hopefully, I can help clear up some concerns and answer some Frequently Asked Questions that I've been hit with about this exciting project.
Is this project really going to happen/Have the out-of-state developers lost interest?
Yes to the first question and an emphatic no to the second one. The developers have been in Springfield weekly since March and I am in daily contact with them. They are excited and things are moving quickly on several fronts.
This is a large, somewhat complicated, project (although not nearly as complex as J & L). It is a historic property and the developers (One Hundred River Street, LLC) have been awarded tax credits from the State of Vermont and are in the process of working with the National Park Service over the Federal Tax Credits that are available. That affects which parts of the building will remain or be demolished.
The site is a Brownfield. In other words, there is contamination on the property, as is the case with all of the former machine tool plants. Thankfully, it is manageable and not as extensive as that at J & L Plant 1. The process involved with assessment, and remediation, has also been moving quickly, which isn't always the case. At this point, what we expect to be the final testing was completed last week, and that should lead to the completion of the Corrective Action Plan this month.
A lot of the contamination is asbestos-related. That assessment has been completed and an abatement firm has been selected. They will be on site later this month to start their work. As sections of the site are cleaned, other things can be put into motion (such as demolition).
The developers also have completed site design work, with their architect, and are in position to continue with redevelopment activities. The financial pieces are in place and ready to go.
Several state departments and agencies have been involved in this process and have understood that this is a priority project, not just for our community, but also for the state. The Agency of Commerce & Community Development and the Department of Environmental Conservation have been important partners, especially the Development Cabinet CEO. The Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission has been working with us closely. And, most critically, the Town of Springfield has been terrific in a number of ways with making this a reality. We are appreciative for all of the help over the past several months!
Why don't we see anything going on?
Actually, there's a lot of activity on the site, but most of it is interior at the moment.
Sharp eyes may have noticed dumpsters in the parking lot next to the building. There's been reclamation work in several of the older buildings as well as plain old cleaning up. Senator Patrick Leahy was in town this week and toured the site. I was delighted to see two of the larger spaces transformed since the last time I'd been in them a few weeks earlier. They'v been cleaned up, there's a fresh coat of paint and the lights are on. It's night and day and, in a small way, it was visible, demonstrable evidence that this is moving forward.
Work on redoing the roof will also be starting in the next few weeks as well as the installation of propane tanks and new piping for the heating of the facility.
After the asbestos remediation is completed, work can start in earnest on several parts of the site, including those that will be demolished.
What's the deal with the braces under the bridge?
One of the moving parts with this project is the bridge that crosses the Black River. The scaffolding was installed to allow for a thorough inspection and analysis of the condition of the bridge. At this point, the developers are considering whether to repair or replace the bridge, with something similar in style and character. In any case, it would remain a pedestrian connection to the property from River Street.
How much of the building is going to be demolished?
This is another unresolved question at the moment. The discussions with the National Park Service include a negotiation about what has to stay to satisfy historic preservation concerns. There will be some demolition, probably not as much as originally envisioned. Some of the older buildings that will remain will be used for other purposes.
I read that these guys are leasing the building? Why haven't they bought it yet?
The structure of this deal was put together knowing that environmental investigation and remediation was a major piece of the project. As a non-profit, there has been a certain logic to maintaining PVDC's ownership of the property during the assessment process transitioning to the remediation of the site. The agreement between PVDC and One Hundred River Street, LLC is a lease to purchase contract and we expect title of the property to transfer later this year.
What's going into the building?
What has been publicly announced is that the existing tenants will remain in the building. They have rolled with the punches over the last few years (and last two winters) and it's important that they are able to stay.
Springfield Hospital's role as a major tenant is also public. They will be creating the Springfield Medical Group in the front brick buildings. They can better comment on the specifics of what that will look like as we move forward.
The intent is that this is a mixed-use development. There will continue to be light industry and manufacturing. There will be top-notch office space. There will be a major medical and public usage of the property. The developers hope to add a restaurant and other related amenities to what will be a high traffic site.
There also have been negotiations with a variety of prospective tenants, some local, some from out of the area. One Hundred River Street, LLC is well aware of the need for additional jobs in this community and that is a major priority of this effort. They have retained a listing agent and are preparing marketing materials for this property.
Wrapping it up.
Hopefully, this was helpful in getting folks up to speed on what's happening with this important project. We have been very active with the amount of business activity in Springfield, with the redevelopment of the former North Springfield Fellows property (which now has over 400 people working in the once vacant facility) and many other strong companies in our community.
But, I certainly understand that this is a different animal. It will be a showcase project in our downtown. It will take a building that's near and dear to our hearts as Springfielders and have it be a centerpiece once again. It was important to me that whoever ended up doing this project would do it right. I'm confident that, just as we saw with Winstanley Enterprises, we've found another partner who is first class.
Yet, I know there's anxiety and skepticism. As the weeks go along and more visible work is apparent, I hope that concern will ebb and more folks will believe and appreciate what's going on. It's exciting to have been in the trenches and it will be a major moment for Springfield as we continue to move forward. And, this serves as a wonderful dress rehearsal, in a number of ways, for what's to come with J & L Plant 1. That' next.
In the meantime, we'll try to provide periodic updates and I'm always happy to share what I can. Feel free to email email@example.com or call me at 885-3061.
Springfield Regional Development Corporation appreciates the opportunity to be of service and we look forward to continuing to make Great Things Happen Here in our community.