SPRINGFIELD — Chestnut Acquisitions LLC, an affiliate of Davenport Properties, has acquired 151 Chestnut St. in Springfield.
The abandoned 70,000 SF building, severely damaged in downtown Springfield’s 2012 gas explosion, is part of the city’s planned Innovation District. Davenport, best known as MGM Springfield’s development partner, is also developer of Davenport Square on Main Street and owner of Springfield Plaza. Charles Irving, a principal of the company, began investing in Springfield in 1994.
The building at 151 Chestnut St. was built in 1916 for the Willys-Overland Motor Company and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1983. According to Charles Irving, “our intent is to celebrate this unique property. Willys is a treasured automotive name in Springfield and US history.”
Willys-Overland built similar buildings in Detroit, St Louis, and Toledo. Davenport’s interest in Chestnut St. was prompted by successful redevelopment of the Detroit structure. “Willys Overland Lofts” in Detroit features mid-size residential units with street level retail.
“This will be a truly transformative development for our downtown,” said Mayor Domenic J. Sarno. “The addition of market rate housing at the Willys Overland building will be a catalyst to future development and Davenport has been a well-respected developer not only in Springfield but throughout the country.”
The Horton Group of Connecticut joins Davenport as a partner in Chestnut St. Ken Horton is known for development and construction of office and residential properties. The company’s most recent project (The Residences at High Street in Guilford CT) received the Home Building Industry (HOBI) Project of the Year Award, the highest honor the organization bestows.
The business plan for 151 Chestnut St. is in development. “Our hope is to create a project similar in scope and spirit to Detroit,” said Juan Prieto (Davenport). “The challenge is calibration of Springfield’s market rents with project cost.”
On Jan. 4, Davenport is scheduled to meet with Springfield’s Historic Commission. At that time, the company will review initial plans and request Commission support for historic tax credits. According to Davenport, feasibility of redevelopment, beginning in 2018, is dependent on tax credits and other forms of assistance.
Given proximity of the new train station and transformation of downtown by MGM Resorts International, Davenport believes the Innovation District is the next step forward.
“We’re starting to see developers building off of the blocks that we put in place with Union Station and MGM Springfield,” said Kevin Kennedy, Chief Development Officer. “The area that was affected by the gas explosion is really the next frontier of development in our downtown, and Willys Overland can be the jewel of the neighborhood.”