Commercial Real Estate Sections

Another Piece of the Puzzle

Chicopee Crossing Will Complement Booming Growth on Route 33

Marriott Courtyard that will anchor Chicopee Crossing

An artist’s rendering of the Marriott Courtyard that will anchor Chicopee Crossing.

At the front of a large, open plot of land on Memorial Drive in Chicopee, just south of Mass Pike exit 5, is a lone Chipotle Mexican Grill — and nothing else.
But judging by the volume of cars pulling in each day, Frank Colaccino has to be optimistic about the prospects for the rest of that open space, which he has dubbed Chicopee Crossing.
“I was surprised that Chipotle has such a following, but they do a very, very good job,” said Colaccino, president of the Colvest Group in Windsor, Conn., which is developing the site. And other restaurants and retailers should see value in joining Chipotle there, he added.
“It’s so accessible — you have access right off the Mass Pike and from Route 33, a major street with a high traffic count — and you have a lot of traffic generators around there, from a Wal-Mart to a Home Depot to Stop & Shop, Big Y, and a BJ’s Wholesale Club. That’s a lot of retail attractions, and we’re right in the middle of all those traffic generators.”
The process of developing Chicopee Crossing began in 2009, but had to clear a major hurdle first. Namely, the city had to find a way to allow northbound drivers on Memorial Drive — separated from the southbound lane by a guardrail — access to the property.
“The access was only on one side of Route 33,” Colaccino said — and with plenty of other retail and restaurant options at the next few busy intersections, none of them allowing U-turns, it was unrealistic to think northbound drivers would make the effort to reverse course for Chicopee Crossing. “To make this an attractive site for retailers, we had to put a traffic light in, and in order to do that, we had to go through the state, through Mass Highway — because it’s a state road — and get their permission.”
That process, he noted, took about 14 months, and involved input from several different agencies. “But that happened, and we’ve put in the traffic signal. It’s installed and operating.” The intersection allows not only left turns into the development, but also access from across the street, where a host of other retail ventures have sprung up over the past decade, and where an Aldi’s supermarket will be built later this year.
While the intersection issue was working its way to resolution, infrastructure for Chicopee Crossing — from water and sewer drains to electric installations and road paving — were being completed, and Colaccino expects construction work to begin in earnest early this summer, following commitments by tenants.
The one building already erected, the 7,000-square-foot structure which currently houses Chipotle, will soon have two other tenants to fill its remaining space: Great Clips, a national hair-salon chain, and a national telephone store. Three other buildings of similar size are also planned; they’re expected to be a second fast-food restaurant, a family restaurant, and a bank. Behind those will be a three-story office building and a 40,000-square-foot retail complex.
Further back will be a Marriott Courtyard hotel. That portion of the project is owned and being developed by Dennis Patel of BK-Investments.
“We’re starting to see some more activity out there,” Colaccino said regarding interest from potential tenants at Chicopee Crossing, “so we’re optimistic that something will happen soon.”

Setting Their Sites
Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette said last year that the key event in bringing Chicopee Crossing to reality was a financial commitment by the state — specifically, $1.25 million through the Massachusetts Opportunity Relocations and Expansion Jobs Capital Program — to pay for the construction of the new intersection, allowing access from both sides of the Route 33 and connecting the new development with the former Casey Chevrolet (and future Aldi’s) property.
“It’s a great project, and it’s going to have the best access off the Pike of any piece of land in Western Mass.,” said Kate Brown, Chicopee’s Planning Department director. “I guess we’re hopeful, now that the economy seems to be picking up, that we’ll see more activity in that location.”
In particular, she noted, the hospitality industry was sluggish during the Great Recession, casting caution over any new hotel project, so it’s encouraging to see the Marriott Courtyard, and all the other proposed elements of the development, coming together.
As for other retailers and restaurant chains that might be feeling out the property, “I can certainly see that site as a draw because the hotel won’t have a restaurant facility,” Brown added. “So it’s kind of a captive audience.”
Any new additions would join a flood of retail and restaurant ventures that have sprung up along Memorial Drive just north and south of the Pike entrance over the past few decades.
The former Fairfield Mall property across the street was the most significant recent development; after those buildings were torn down in 2002, they were gradually replaced by a Home Depot and a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Those, in turn, anchor a plaza that now includes a Marshall’s, Staples, 99 Restaurant, Applebees, and about a dozen smaller retailers and quick-service eateries; a Friendly’s at the south edge of the site is the only survivor from the mall years.
Yet, Brown said the corridor began to pick up even before that, around 1996, with a series of smaller store openings. Since the mid-’90s, “if we had a vacant spot, we’d have a building on it quickly. It’s been pretty amazing. I wish we had more land there, actually. We were kind of skeptical that the stores located in the [Wal-Mart] shopping center would be viable, but it’s been a very stable group of businesses.”
Colvest, which has built a solid portfolio of projects in Western Mass., from several CVS locations to a new office complex on East Columbus Avenue in Springfield, has never taken on this kind of mixed-use project before, Colaccino told BusinessWest, but he’s excited about the potential for this particular site, for the very reason others mentioned — the fact that exit 5 has become a significant retail destination.
“I think this is a prime mixed-use project, with everything that’s here,” he said, adding that he has enjoyed working with Chicopee officials on bringing the development to the verge of the construction phase.
“All the people I’ve worked with in the city of Chicopee have been terrific,” he noted. “Mayor Bissonnette has been great to work with, and they have been very cooperative.
“They have a system in Chicopee,” Colaccino continued. “When a developer comes in, they get all the various departments together to talk about all the issues that might come up and all the different needs they have and what the developer has to do. They really make the process streamlined, and you don’t have to guess at everything. They just tell you, ‘these are the requirements,’ and we work together to make those things happen in a way that’s beneficial to everybody.”

Bottom Line
Nothing will happen — except for the hotel, of course — without commitments from tenants, and Colaccino expects those to be firmed up in short order so that construction can proceed this summer.
“We won’t build on spec,” he said, not even the office building. “But we envision some demand for office space there, and when that comes in, we’ll be ready. I think we’re envisioning some 22,000 to 25,000 square feet of office space, and that could be any number of uses — a doctor’s office, a dentist’s office, it could be a professional office, a mixed office with medical … any number of things.”
In any case, construction workers will be digging for drainage and other underground work very soon, and the hotel foundation will follow. After that, “we wait for the tenants,” Colaccino said, conceding that he’s anxious to see that phase move swiftly. “It doesn’t do us any good to have land just sitting there.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Related Posts

buy ivermectin for humans buy ivermectin online
buy generic cialis buy cialis