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Architecture

Decade of Design

Kevin Shea (left, with Richard Morse)

Kevin Shea (left, with Richard Morse) says Architecture EL built its extensive portfolio of projects largely on direct-design work.

When Kevin Shea launched his own architecture firm after almost two decades working for someone else, it wasn’t exactly a great time to start a business — particularly one in a construction-related field.

It was 2008, actually, right at the start of the Great Recession, which would significantly dry up building activity for the next few years.

“We started at the bottom, but we got lucky, and we worked hard and delivered good client service — the things you want to build on as a new business,” said Shea, who has grown his firm, Architecture EL, from a solo practice to a six-person operation. “Now were seeing some of the firms that survived and hung on — some older, respected firms — start to close up or retire, which puts us in a good spot; we’re well-established at this point, and we can take on the work and fill in the gaps.”

As the East Longmeadow-based firm celebrates its 10-year anniversary in October, Shea can look back at an eclectic blend of projects, ranging from affordable housing to municipal work; from a children’s museum to a country club.

“We started at the bottom, but we got lucky, and we worked hard and delivered good client service — the things you want to build on as a new business.”

“We have a good, diverse mix of work,” he told BusinessWest. “We’ve done some restaurant work locally; we’re looking at significant renovations to Elmcrest Country Club, which had a couple of fires last year; and we’re looking at more affordable housing and some private residential.”

For example, the E. Henry Twiggs Estates, a 75-unit affordable-housing project in the Mason Square neighborhood of Springfield, is being developed by Home City Housing. “We’ve worked through phase 1 with Home City on Twiggs, and now phase 2 is almost slated to begin at the end of the year, so that’s represented a lot of our office time lately,” he said.

Two of the residences in the E. Henry Twiggs Estates, an affordable-housing development in Springfield.

Two of the residences in the E. Henry Twiggs Estates, an affordable-housing development in Springfield.

“We’ve gotten to grow with some good work in housing, especially the affordable-housing sector,” he went on, citing other upcoming work, such as a project with Community Builders, a nonprofit that has become a significant force in the affordable-housing market from Boston to New York. “We’re in the early throes of conversations to do a 70-unit multi-family renovation in Western Mass. — it’s not contracted yet, but well along in the talks. That’ll be nice.”

While developing a strong base in multi-family housing, Shea said his firm has built a diverse portfolio in other areas as well, with recent and upcoming projects including a childcare center in Monson, a fire-station addition in Hampden, and an accessibility project at Hatfield Town Hall, following more extensive design work several years ago on that town’s municipal offices.

“You never know what we’ll be up to,” said Richard Morse, a consultant at the firm — and sometimes, the work can be very outside the box. Take, for instance, a planned project to design a veterans’ memorial on North Main Street in East Longmeadow, in front of the Pleasant View Senior Center, a stone’s throw Route 83 from Architecture EL’s office.

“That’s a relatively modest commission in terms of dollars, but it’s important to us here in East Longmeadow,” Shea said. “A veterans group came to us; they have an agreement for a piece of land in the front yard of the senior center, so we’re in the early stages of a design project for a memorial.”

Morse noted that the project is in the fund-raising stages, but there have already been conversations about what it will look like.

“They came to us with a shopping list, and we’re bringing to it a sense of space and respect and contemplation — and we have to do that in front of a building along a busy street,” Shea said. “We don’t just want to build a chunk of stone; we want to create a space where people come and reflect. That’s one that we’re really honored to have a chance to with these veterans. It’s a nice project, and we’re happy to be doing it close to home, right here in town.”

Unrolling the Future

Shea has always wanted to be an architect, having told the story on occasion of seeing old blueprints lying around his house as a child and being fascinated by what they represented. Architecture ended up fitting his personality, with its blend of hands-on and creative work, mechanical and artistic skills.

So after graduating from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, he took a job with a small architecture firm for 18 years before deciding in 2008 to strike out on his own.

Architecture EL — the acronym stands for Environment Life — was built on the idea of direct design. It’s more common than ever, in fact, to partner with owners and contractors in the design and construction of a building, whereas, decades ago, those elements were far more often bid separately.

The firm’s recent projects

The firm’s recent projects include restaurants, affordable housing, municipal facilities, and many others.

“I think the trend is toward more hands-on work, more design-build, more working with the trades in the field,” he said. “We see a little of the traditional drawing on spec and bidding to three or five contractors. But we see more of the construction-management side of things, where a developer wants to partner with us and a favorite contractor or builder and basically pull together architects, engineers, and contractors to get an efficient, affordable team.”

That has always been his preferred model, he added. “The nice thing is, you usually get to the point pretty quickly. The contractor is at the table, and you can move from design to construction pretty efficiently.”

With friendly cooperation among all parties, Morse said, “we can be the bridge between the client and the contractor because that gets kind of lopsided without our involvement. We’re able to have dialogue with the builder and come up with ways to control cost and schedule.”

The ‘EL’ in the company’s name doesn’t stand for East Longmeadow, as some may assume, but, as noted earlier, for Environment Life, concepts reflected in the types of work Shea takes on. Green building was on the rise when Architecture EL was born, but it’s become in many ways standard practice, reflected in both customer demands and Massachusetts building codes.

But Shea said he’s not interested in the bare minimum. “On the environmental side, we keep digging further into energy and good design, to deliver not just code compliance but a healthy, safe, well-constructed building. That piece never goes away.”

The ‘life’ piece is a more general idea, but it gets into the whole experience of a space and the specific ways it will benefit the lives of those who live in and use it, whether it’s residents benefiting from affordable housing; the kids who will benefit from an accessibility-improvement project at the Wilbraham Children’s Museum; or the employees of Marcotte Ford who work in that company’s commercial truck center, built in 2015, or its new headquarters, which opens this month.

“We don’t specialize in custom, single-family residential, but it seems that those who end up here need someone to help solve a problem. A lot of times, they have a house, a budget, a program, and can’t figure out how to put it all together.”

“Even a private residential project, that’s very intimate for the client,” Morse said. “You’re designing space where they’ll spend a good portion of their lives, so that always makes our work interesting and impactful.”

Shea agreed. “We don’t specialize in custom, single-family residential, but it seems that those who end up here need someone to help solve a problem. A lot of times, they have a house, a budget, a program, and can’t figure out how to put it all together. It’s nice to work with those people. Those projects can be fun.”

Answer Man

Whether designing a municipal project, a place of business, or a home — or a multi-home development — Shea has never stopped seeing his role as focusing on a client’s environment and life, and coming up with solutions that enhance both.

“We’ve been busy for quite a while, and we seem to be staying busy. Clearly the economy is moving along,” he noted. “We’ve seen a lot of smaller single-family projects creeping up, three or four at a time. These are people who aren’t just hiring a contractor, they want to make sure they get to a good solution. People are looking to invest in the design time up front.”

Morse said the team is cautiously optimistic that the good times will persist.

“We’ve been lucky, and we’ve been busy,” Shea added. “We’ve been growing steadily, though we’re not looking to grow too much. We just want to keep working hard for our clients. That’s what keeps them coming back.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Construction

Creating a Solid Foundation

This lake home in Westhampton

This lake home in Westhampton is one of the many projects in Keiter Builders’ portfolio of residential projects.

While earning his master’s degree in finance at the University of Rhode Island, Scott Keiter wasn’t thinking about using it to manage his own construction company. But after a dose of the ‘real world,’ as he called it, while working for an insurance company, his passion for carpentry took his career in a completely different direction. In a short decade, Keiter Builders has constructed a solid business foundation and a diverse portfolio of projects across several disciplines.

Scott Keiter likes to say his company is what he calls “a typical Valley builder.”

By that, he means it is relatively small, at least when compared to outfits in larger cities, boasts a diverse portfolio — out of necessity and good business sense more than anything else — is agile, and also always looking to add new disciplines to the equation.

Florence-based Keiter Builders is quite atypical, however, in that it is a first-generation company, started just 10 years ago, almost at the height of the Great Recession (we’ll get back to that challenge later), and therefore doesn’t have a long history.

Indeed, most of the builders in the 413 can boast in their ads — and on the sides of their trucks — that they were launched a half-century or more ago. Their principals can talk about starting out working for their fathers, who can talk about starting out working for their fathers.

Scott and Jill Keiter.

There isn’t any of that Keiter Builders, said Scott, who noted that his father is an aerospace engineer and he himself earned a master’s degree in economics at the University of Rhode Island, and while he was earning it, thoughts of putting it to use to manage his own construction company rarely, if ever, entered his mind.

However, and this is a big ‘however,’ Keiter worked as a carpenter during the summer while in high school and college, developed somewhat of a passion for building, and stayed in touch with the industry throughout his education.

“I tried different careers, and between my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree, I went to work for State Farm Insurance in auto claims — that was my introduction to the real world,” he said. “Which wasn’t for me; when I got my master’s degree, I decided I needed a break and went back to carpentry.”

To move the story along, things “progressed,” as he put it, deploying a word he would use early and often, and Keiter Builders started to establish a foothold and begin its transformation into, well, a typical Valley builder.

Download the PDF: List of General Contractors

Today, as noted, it is diverse, specializing in commercial, residential, and institutional work, with clients including Smith College and Amherst College, a number of smaller businesses in and around Paradise City, and the city of Northampton itself — Keiter is currently handling a number of projects within Look Park, for example.

As much as Scott Keiter is into building dwellings, commercial spaces, and softball diamonds, among other things, right now he’s mostly engaged in building his business, a process that, like most, he finds enjoyable, but also quite challenging, given the pressures of what comes day to day.

“One of my challenges is looking ahead,” he explained. “You’re just so busy as a small-business owner, it takes everything you’ve got just to get through the day, but you need to focus on tomorrow as well as today.”

With that in mind, he wants to continuously expand the portfolio, and he’s doing that through various initiatives, everything from investments in the ‘heavy construction division,’ as he called it, which is pursuing subsurface utility work, trenching, and heavy civil projects, to efforts toward gaining certification to handle work for the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, or DCAM, which would enable it to pick up work at UMass Amherst and other state-run facilities (more on all that later).

For this issue and its focus on construction, BusinessWest turns the spotlight on Keiter Builders, a comparatively young firm that has constructed a solid business foundation and is looking to continue building upon it.

By the Booklet

As part of those business-building efforts he described, Keiter said the company has become more aggressive in its efforts to promote its brand.

Like most all builders, large and small, word-of-mouth referrals have always been the most effective marketing tool, but the company has added another component with a slick promotional brochure that Keiter and his staff, including his wife, Jill, invested considerable time and energy in and are quite proud of.

This booklet does a very effective job of explaining the company’s depth and agility — or that ‘progression,’ as Keiter described it, while detailing not only what it does, but also, and perhaps more importantly, how.

Indeed, it devotes pages to the firm’s work to carefully develop a sound pre-construction strategy and manage the construction process and meet the most fundamental of objectives in this highly competitive business — finishing on time and to the specifications set by the client.

But it mostly focuses on wide array of projects in the portfolio.

That list includes everything from a telescope observatory dome at Smith College to the memorial fountain at Look Park; from the Valentine Hall rooftop deck at Amherst College to the work at Roberto’s restaurant in Northampton; from the new Northampton offices of the law firm Bacon Wilson to the Convino Wine Bar in Thornes Marketplace.

It also includes an addition and renovation to the optical studios almost directly across Main Street in Florence from the Keiter offices, as well as a host of new homes, remodelings, and additions.

Overall, that brochure shows a great deal of progression in a decade and how quickly the company has been able to establish itself within this market.

And remember, it started at the height of the recession. Well, sort of.

“We weren’t really a construction company at that time,” said Keiter, adding that the enterprise amounted to him handling a wide array of carpentry work. “We went out and just built a network of clients, and kept at it.”

By that he meant, well, a lot of things, including taking whatever jobs he could get, eventually adding his first employee and then more as the project list grew — “we’re really fortunate to have an excellent group of craftsmen working for us” — and lots of hard work building the solid relationships that are the very bedrock of this sector.

The softball field at Smith College

This relationship-building ability is clearly evident in the list of projects the company is currently handling, including several smaller initiatives at both Smith and Amherst Colleges, for which Keiter has already handled a number of assignments, and ongoing work at Look Park — which is in the midst of a comprehensive capital-improvement project. Renovation of Pines Theater is among the current initiatives.

There are a also a few residential projects ongoing, as well as a new building to support teen housing being developed by a Greenfield-based group called Dial/Self, said Keiter, adding that the company continues to build on the relationships it has forged in its early years while also establishing new ones.

“I don’t think there’s a defining moment over the past 10 years when it comes to how we’ve arrived here,” Keiter explained. “We try to take a long-term approach to our work as it relates to the quality, but also the relationships, and that’s really paid off for us.”

He offered Smith College as an example.

“We’ve been working with them for about six years,” he explained. “We started off doing very small projects, and we’ve just earned their respect and worked our way up to being involved with larger projects. As a first-generation company, we have to consistently prove our value.”

The company currently handles work within a relatively small geographic radius — roughly 15 miles from its Florence base, by Keiter’s estimates — but it is looking to expand that reach as well as its list of core competencies.

Keiter Builders handled renovations of the common area at Amherst College, one of its many institutional clients.

Indeed, Keiter, as noted, is currently investing in a heavy-construction division — a subsidiary of the company, actually — based in Hatfield. This division pursues work with utilities and larger contractors and focus on excavating, trenching, and site work, and it has been growing steadily, said Keiter.

Such diversification is important, especially for a sector so profoundly impacted by downturns in the economy.

“We need to stay engaged in many different disciplines,” he explained. “Sometimes, when commercial or institutional is a little slow, the residential fills the gaps. We really enjoy all the different kinds of projects; it keeps us sharp.”

Meanwhile, the company now owns a number of properties in the Northampton area and will look to develop them, said Keiter, adding that he’s eyeing a mix of commercial and residential development opportunities.

Then there’s the process of becoming DCAM-certified, which, Keiter said, should open a number of doors, including the large one involving UMass Amherst.

“We’re starting to enter the public arena,” he told BusinessWest, adding that DCAM certification should be a catalyst for growth within the heavy-construction division as well as the traditional contracting side of the venture.

Building a Legacy

Keiter, who has young children, said that someday, maybe his company can be one of those that boasts multiple generations of ownership and a half-century of history.

“I really enjoy building the business — it’s a pleasure to build a legacy,” he explained. “My hope is that maybe, sometime down the line, there will be a second generation.”

For now, he’s focused on that business- and legacy-building process, and said the formula for doing that is pretty straightforward.

“You have to keep grinding and building a reputation,” he explained. “And in our industry, there are no shortcuts to doing that.”

Indeed, there’s just hard work — on the job site and in creating and strengthening relationships. And success in those realms has enabled Keiter to come a in way in a short decade.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Partner, Cofab Design and Brick Coworkshop; Age 27; Education: BS, Boston University

Mike Stone

Mike Stone

Stone is a mechanical engineer and designer who’s into multi-disciplinary projects, moving parts, products, machines, prototypes, and hammer swinging. He’s a partner at Cofab Design, a product design and development studio, and a cofounder of Brick Coworkshop, a shared workspace, both located in Holyoke. He’s also part of the team at AF, a national pop-up event series.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A scientist — science rules. Biology and physics had my attention for a while. Unfortunately, that same attention span disposes me to detailed, focused research work, so I ended up in the design world.

How do you define success? I feel successful if I am always learning and reading, always supporting and listening to my collaborators and community, and continually working to realize or facilitate new and energizing projects.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? I love the fact that our region is a crossroads of sorts. Being from the area, I’m excited to see positive energy and projects in many towns and cities. I think the relative size of the region lends itself to a higher likelihood that we can have conversations and initiatives that make this a better place to live for everyone — as well as a hub for art, design, entrepreneurship, and other pursuits.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? If I’m feeling ‘on’ for a given day, my goal is to get through a good swath of substantive to-do list items. If I’m feeling ‘off,’ my goal is to make it through to the next day.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Andy Samberg circa 2005.

What are you passionate about? I’m a chronic generalist (terminal generalist may be more appropriate), so I like to dabble with lots of things. I’m passionate about the design world (product, graphic, architecture, planning, etc.). I love to build things. I read fiction and nonfiction as constantly as I can and love print publications. I’ve been trying to play music more often lately, and have a long list of projects to complete and things to learn. Being involved with Brick has turned me on to the general process of community building, and I’m interested to learn and apply more in that discipline.

 

Photography  by Leah Martin Photography

Environment and Engineering Sections

Turning the Page

Bruce Coombs’ office is filled with conversation pieces from the past.

Bruce Coombs’ office is filled with conversation pieces from the past.

The word ‘ephemeral’ means lasting for a short time, which is odd, considering one definition of ‘ephemera’ — and how long some of it has been kicking around.

“Ephemera is old paper — it could be postcards, newspapers, old magazines, sheet music, World War I and World War II posters, movie posters, Civil War correspondence, trading cards,” said Bruce Coombs, owner of both Heritage Surveys and Heritage Books.

The Southampton-based surveying firm, which has been working with developers, architects, and engineers, has been around since 1977 — so it’s anything but ephemeral — while the book business, spawned from a need by Coombs to house his massive collection of used books and memorabilia, is a more recent entity.

“Most of the people who work in this business do it part time,” he said of the bookstore, which has both a physical location, a stone’s throw north on Route 10 at the former Southampton Library, and a robust online presence at heritagebks.com. “I’ve gotten to the age where I’m buying less and selling more.”

Coombs didn’t start his career in either land surveying or old books. He enrolled in the forestry program at Paul Smith’s College in New York, but went to work for the U.S. Postal Service in Long Island shortly after.

Occasionally, he’d visit his sister in the Pioneer Valley, and he liked the area, so eventually he procured a transfer to the Amherst Post Office and enrolled at UMass. Soon after, in the early 1970s, he started working at Huntley Associates, a Northampton-based surveying company. After advancing in that firm and managing one of its offices, he decided to open his own company, and Heritage was born in 1976.

He worked out of a small office on Route 10 in Southampton until 1985, when he outgrew the space and purchased a 13-acre property about a mile south on College Highway. The idea was to grow slowly and steadily, and to focus on surveying rather than engineering. By doing so, he continued, he found that other engineering firms were willing to hire Heritage to conduct surveying for their projects.

“There are engineering firms we’ve worked with for many years; we’ve worked with some engineers for as much as 30 years,” he said. “A lot of engineering firms don’t have a survey contingent, and they like the work we do, so they’re ongoing clients; there are several in Western Mass., and Eastern and Central Mass. as well.”

While he intended to concentrate on surveying rather than engineering, he went on, “in order to do surveying successfully, to be the best at it, you need to do some engineering, and you need to be knowledgable about a lot of other professions, including the legal profession, planning and zoning, and landscape architecture.”

The firm’s growing reputation won jobs at Westover Air Reserve Base, Westfield-Barnes Municipal Airport, Baystate Medical Center’s Hospital of the Future expansion, the Basketball Hall of Fame, and work for the Springfield Redevelopment Authority at myriad sites.

Coombs has been in the business long enough to see surveyors transition from steel tape to electronic total stations, which allow the operator to control the instrument from a distance via remote control, to GPS units that connect to satellites — progress that has reduced crews on a project from three or four to one or two.

Booking Jobs

At the same time, Coombs was collecting old books — lots of them, to the point where he opened a shop, Heritage Books, in the same building that houses Heritage Surveys.

Actually, he collects both books and ephemera — again, a catch-all term for all sorts of printed, often collectible materials. Eventually, his collection and bookstore were outgrowing their space.

The answer to this problem came in the form of the former Southampton Library, which was built in 1904. When the property went up for sale, he put in a bid, purchased the building, and gradually began moving most of the books to the new site. At the same time, he undertook a major renovation and expansion of the Heritage Surveys property.

Today, Coombs’ office is still strewn with shelves and drawers filled with books, ephemera, and other items, including his own great-grandfather’s handwritten Civil War record, as well as numerous plaques, busts, and other images of Presidents Lincoln and Washington, who were, he likes to point out, both surveyors.

“I like things that are nostalgic, graphical, colorful,” he said, holding up, as one example, well-preserved sheet music (“New York and Coney Island Cycle March Two-step,” by E.T. Paull) adorned with colorful illustrations of the historic fairgrounds in the 1890s.

Perhaps the most striking collectible sits on a table in the library: a large ferris wheel — with a working motor and lights — made in the 1930s from about 200,000 medical applicator sticks; he discovered the damaged relic, and some accompanying model circus wagons, and had them all restored for display in the bookstore.

This emphasis on the past is accessible in a thoroughly modern way, a website that links to several e-commerce outlets for Coombs’ collection, including eBay, Biblio, Alibris, and Amazon. Some 30,000 books and other items are searchable online. For the rest, buyers have to visit the old library.

That they can find so much online, though, is a major change in the way used-book dealers operate, connecting hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. and overseas, he noted. “Sales of books and ephemera have gone over to the Internet, and it certainly has changed things.”

Coombs is making some changes as well, mainly to downsize his collection. For 18 years, he’d maintained a 520-square-foot storage unit in the Eastworks basement up the road in Easthampton, with shelves reaching eight feet tall, loaded with books. The rental probably cost him close to $40,000 over that time, yet the materials in it weren’t nearly that valuable, so he eventually moved everything out.

“We took 350 boxes to the Salvation Army in Westfield, and kept some things and blended them into our collection,” he said, noting that he still has plenty of overflow inventory in a six-car garage, but may gradually empty that as well.

“People ask when I’ll retire,” he said with a laugh, “but when you run two businesses — the survey business and a book business — it’s difficult to retire.”

Thus, the next chapter in an intriguing dual career begins.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Company Notebook Departments

HUB International Acquires Assets of Leitao Insurance

EAST LONGMEADOW — HUB International Limited, a leading global insurance brokerage, announced it has acquired the assets of Leitao Insurance Inc. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Located in Ludlow, Leitao is a multi-line insurance brokerage firm providing products in personal and commercial lines. The Leitao agency will join HUB New England with other local HUB offices in Ludlow (formerly Your Choice), South Hadley, Monson, and East Longmeadow.

CRRC MA Facility Wins Engineering Award

SPRINGFIELD — The CRRC MA rail-car manufacturing facility at the former Westinghouse site was honored as the state’s outstanding engineering achievement of the year by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts. Plaza Construction, which served as the design-build contractor for the property, accepted the award at a ceremony Wednesday. The $95 million project, spanning more than 204,000 square feet — not including the 2,240-foot test track — is the largest industrial investment in Greater Springfield in generations. The Chinese-owned company will start building new cars for the MBTA Orange Line in April, and for the Red Line later this year. In 2014, CRRC received a $566 million contract from the MBTA to build 152 Orange Line cars and 252 Red Line cars at the Page Boulevard site. Two years later, the state ordered an additional 120 Red Line cars at a cost of $277 million, with production set to begin in 2022.

Hofbrauhaus Closing Doors After 83 Years in Business

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Hofbrauhaus owners Joe and Liz Stevens will close its doors for good on April 1, the couple announced on Facebook on Wednesday. “It is official — as of Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018 (and no, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke), the Hofbrauhaus will be closing its doors for good,” they wrote. “We thank everyone for their patronage and support over the years, but we are ready to move on and make some big, wonderful, exciting, and maybe a little scary changes in our lives.’” Hofbrauhaus, the German restaurant that became one of the region’s most iconic eateries, first opened its doors in 1935.

United Bank Joins Connecticut Trolley Museum as Corporate Sponsor

EAST WINDSOR, Conn. — The Connecticut Trolley Museum announced that United Bank has joined the museum as a corporate sponsor. The museum started its corporate sponsor program in 2016, and since then a number of area businesses have joined the museum to support its mission “to provide a historically accurate educational experience of the trolley era through the interpretation, preservation, restoration, and operation of an electric railway.” As its newest corporate sponsor, United Bank joins Sophia’s Restaurant, USA Hauling, Windsor Federal Savings, Collins Pipe and Supply, Simsbury Bank, Connecticut Lighting Centers, Get Listed Realty, and Allstate in support of the museum. The Connecticut Trolley Museum is located off of Route 140 in East Windsor, off exit 45 of Interstate 91. Businesses with an interest in becoming corporate sponsors may contact the museum at (860) 627-6540 or [email protected]

Ohana School of Performing Arts Supports Square One

SPRINGFIELD — The Square One family continues to expand, thanks to its latest partnership with Ohana School of Performing Arts. Ohana owner Ashley Kohl and her team are volunteering monthly to visit preschoolers at the Square One Tommie Johnson Child & Family Center in Springfield. All 150 children will receive lessons in creative movement and dance. “Studies have long pointed to the physical benefits of dance when it comes to keeping children fit and working to combat childhood obesity,” said Kristine Allard, chief development and communications officer for Square One. “More recent research also points to the benefits of dance from the standpoint of emotional, social, and cognitive development, which is a critical component of our work at Square One.” The volunteer support comes in conjunction with Ohana’s recent gift of $1,000 to support Square One’s work with children and families.

Thornes Marketplace to Renovate Front Entrance

NORTHAMPTON — Thornes Marketplace will begin a major renovation of its front entrance on Main Street the first week in April to make practical improvements as well as aesthetic ones that are historically accurate. Richard Madowitz, Thornes owner and property manager, stressed that work on the entryway — one of the last phases of a multi-year capital-improvement project — will be conducted from 9:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. The front entrance will remain open daily during regular business hours. After the project gets underway, Madowitz noted, visitors with questions or concerns can send feedback to [email protected] Photographs will be available on Thornes’ Facebook page, and news and updates will appear at thornesmarketplace.com. Over the past 10 years, Thornes Marketplace has undertaken a series of major renovations to improve and enhance the eclectic shopping center. Thornes has partnered with Keiter Builders Inc. and Emily Estes of Estes Architecture and Design for the renovations to the entranceway. McGee said the practical goal of the project is to improve accessibility and make the entrance more user-friendly by replacing the 30-year-old wooden doors with wider doors equipped with modern power operators compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Aesthetic improvements will include a raised, coffered ceiling; new, custom-stained oak doors; dramatic chandelier lighting; and new floor tiling. The Florence Bank ATM enclosure will also be renovated to fit the period.

Indian Motorcycle to Open Apparel Store at MGM

SPRINGFIELD — Indian Motorcycle, the Springfield-based pioneer of the American motorcycle industry, will debut the brand’s first-ever apparel store as an anchor tenant of MGM Springfield’s retail collection. The flagship location will open its doors at the MGM property later this year. The Indian Motorcycle store will offer items from the brand’s casual apparel line, the Indian Motorcycle 1901 Fashion Collection. This road-ready collection features graphic tees, sweatshirts, hoodies, and jackets inspired by Indian Motorcycle’s rich heritage. Indian Motorcycle jewelry and accessories also will be available for purchase. Mirroring the aesthetic of the store’s product lines, the space will feature an industrial-yet-modern vibe with exposed, vaulted ceilings and concrete and wood elements. Paying homage to its long-standing roots in the heart of Springfield, the location will open onto to the resort’s plaza.

AIC Joins Hispanic Assoc. of Colleges and Universities

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) joined the Hispanic Assoc. of Colleges and Universities (HACU) as an associate member. HACU was established in 1986 with a founding membership of eighteen institutions. It now represents more than 470 colleges and universities committed to Hispanic higher-education success in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Spain. While member institutions in the U.S. represent only 13% of all higher-education institutions nationwide, together these colleges and universities are home to two-thirds of all Hispanic college students. HACU’s commitment to Hispanic achievement in education ranges from kindergarten through graduate school and into the work force of tomorrow. Key among the organization’s goals is to improve access to and quality of post-secondary educational opportunities for Hispanic students.

Viridi International Resorts Acquires El Silencio Lodge and Spa in Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Viridi International Resorts SRL, a new upstart in the ultra-luxury boutique hotel and spa space, announced the acquisition of El Silencio Lodge and Spa from Grupo Isilita, San Jose, Costa Rica. El Silencio Lodge is a luxury eco-tourist resort located in the high-altitude cloud forest just one hour from San Jose in Bajos del Toro. El Silencio was recently voted the No. 2 Top Resort in Central America by Condé Nast Reader’s Choice Awards. El Silencio Lodge offers one of the best lodging and dining experiences in Costa Rica. The property’s 16 intimate casitas and six two-bedroom villas offers visitors a one-of-a-kind refuge from a busy world. The resort’s detached suites offer a private viewing deck of the surrounding cloud forest with traditional rocking chairs, and a private heated outdoor Jacuzzi. Viridi plans to add additional rooms and suites in the months and years ahead. The hotel’s Las Ventanas Restaurant offers traditional Costa Rican dishes in addition to an eclectic assortment of entrees and appetizers with organic farm-to-table produce and fresh fish from two on-site fish farms. Guests can actively participate in the culinary experience by fishing for rainbow trout (Costa Rican salmon), picking vegetables, collecting free-range chicken eggs, or venturing out to a community market before enjoying a fun-filled interactive cooking session with the resort’s head chef. A second on-site restaurant, Hierbabuena, is open weekends during high season and offers a more casual menu for family gatherings. Onsite activities at El Silencio include horseback riding, ziplining, waterfall repelling, fishing, yoga, and more than two miles of hiking trails, all located on 500 acres of a pristine Costa Rican cloud forest with three breathtaking waterfalls, including one nearly 200 feet tall, all flanked by two national parks to ensure a quiet and serene experience. The resort’s open space Esencia Spa offers a full array of rejuvenating treatments using indigenous Costa Rican rainforest oils and minerals. Viridi International Resorts SRL was founded by Boston-area media entrepreneur John Gormally with the goal of building a small to medium-sized luxury boutique hotel/spa group with properties throughout Central and South America, the Caribbean, and other highly sought-after destination spots across the globe. Akoya Hospitality LLC, New York, N.Y. acted as advisor to buyer. Resort Capital Partners of Charlotte, N.C. acted as advisor to the seller. The sale price was not disclosed.

Architecture Sections

Home Makers

KithcenInteriorThe ideas home buyers — and those looking to renovate — bring to the table can morph over time, and a few trends, including an emphasis on open floor plans and sustainable living, not to mention natural surfaces and unobtrusive, smart technology, have come to dominate today’s residential-design world. And when the end result matches the initial vision, well, that’s when a house truly becomes a home.

Something old, something new.

That’s not just the first four words of the ritual brides seek to incorporate on their wedding day — it’s at the heart of another long-time commitment people make: Building a home.

“People in this area are definitely more focused on recognizable regional architecture that draws on arts-and-crafts tradition, farmhouse tradition, or Victorian tradition; they like forms that are familiar to them,” said Charles Roberts, a principal with Kuhn Riddle Architects in Amherst.

“People bring to the process their preconceived notions about architecture, from their research and what they’re comfortable with,” he added. “Most people are drawn to a house that’s recognizable in terms of form, something they can relate to.”

The homes on these pages, designed by Kuhn Riddle Architects, are examples of how today’s houses blend traditional ideas with modern space plans.

The homes on these pages, designed by Kuhn Riddle Architects, are examples of how today’s houses blend traditional ideas with modern space plans.

However, he said, when they step inside, they’re definitely not looking for a traditional Victorian layout with many small rooms. “They want more modern, open plans — more light, open space, an integrated way of living with their house. A compartmentalized dining room is one of those components that’s falling more out of favor. They want a kitchen space that opens to living area and the dining area.”

Chris Jacobs, president of Barron & Jacobs Associates in Northampton, a design-build firm with a large residential-renovation portfolio, has witnessed the same trend over the past decade, with many projects focused on creating a more open feel.

“In most of our jobs, we’re opening up living space,” he said. “The traditional dining room is going away; we’re always knocking down walls to open up space.”

It’s a trend the national home-design media has pegged as well; flexible living space ranks among Architect magazine’s top three trends for 2018, driven in part by changing lifestyles and the way families want to interact today. In short, it’s all about flow and compatibility between spaces.

“Dedicated kitchen, living, and dining rooms have largely been replaced by large multi-purpose spaces that can be customized to meet families’ needs,” the magazine noted. “Architects can work with builders to ensure designs offer flexibility in living arrangements by including sliding doors, pocket doors, and other movable dividers in homes to ensure a seamless transition between rooms in the home, as well as between indoor and outdoor living spaces.”

That’s just one way modern home design has shifted in recent years. For this issue’s focus on architecture, BusinessWest takes a look at a few other ways architects and builders are creating spaces that reflect 21st-century tastes.

Lean and Green

Architect’s second big trend in home design is sustainability, and that’s no surprise; ‘green’ building, once a costly outlier in home design, still often comes with a steep cost, but is no longer uncommon.

“Consumers know the importance of reducing their carbon footprints, and want to make sustainable choices that fit with their lifestyles,” the publication noted. “Architects can meet these needs by ensuring the building envelope is well-sealed and insulated and by including sustainable options such as solar panels or energy-efficient appliances.”

That may be even more true in Western Mass., with its reputation as an environmentally-conscious region.

“People are definitely interested in the energy efficiency of building and design right now, moreso than they were as recently as 10 years ago,” Roberts said. “A number of projects I’ve been working on for builders include zero design, really paying attention to the envelope of the building, heat recovery, and ventilation. All the renewable-energy components are in demand.”

Jacobs pointed out that communities in Massachusetts, with its stricter-than-average stretch codes mandating sustainable building elements, already require certain elements, and beyond that, each option comes with a budget hit. “You can definitely surpass [the codes], but most people, when they see the price difference, don’t, for example, use spray-foam insulation through their whole house.”

Beyond energy efficiency, Roberts said, homeowners are trending toward natural materials in the home, like wood floors and stone countertops, and away from plastics and formica. Meanwhile, wall-to-wall carpeting is becoming much less popular as people want to showcase their natural flooring.

They’re also more focused on the kitchen than other areas of the home, he said, not just with natural surfaces, but with high-end appliances. “Kitchen is a place people still focus on, and they want nice refrigerators and ranges and cabinets. The kitchen is still the heart and core of almost every house. Every conversation seems to end up in the kitchen.”

Jacobs said kitchens are probably the number-one target of home renovation projects he’s involved with.

“Everyone wants to go to stone countertops, good appliances, quality cabinets,” he noted, adding that there’s wide range of outcomes depending on the budget. “You can build a kitchen that can last 100 years, or build one that lasts 10.”

Bathrooms are another area where higher-end options like custom shower tile, frameless glass, and heated floors are extremely popular — when the budget allows. Of course, there’s a good reason kitchens and bathrooms get so much attention: they’re important for quality of life.

“The majority of people in Massachusetts live in an older home, so we renovate a lot of bathrooms and kitchens,” he told BusinessWest. “Everyone would love a screen porch, but they don’t necessarily need it. But if your bathroom is leaking, it can’t wait.”

Chris Jacobs

Chris Jacobs says today’s building codes mandate plenty of sustainable and energy-efficient aspects, but some home buyers and remodelers choose to go beyond them.

As for exterior trends, Roberts said, many builders are moving toward fiber cement, a durable, paintable product that replicates many traditional sidings. “It’s nice, because it holds paint forever, and it’s a little less expensive than natural wood, so a lot of housing we’re seeing going up now has that material in the exterior.”

The final top trend on Architect’s list for 2018 is hidden technology, which is becoming more integrated and extensive than ever before. Homeowners enjoy being able to adjust heat and lights, preheat the oven, and perform other tasks from a mobile device.

“Architects,” it noted, “should work with builders to ensure customization is part of the plan from the beginning, and also that new homes are optimized for wi-fi connectivity based on the size and layout of the home.”

Arch2O, an organization that promotes innovative ideas in architecture, also foresees this technology becoming more prevalent. “Smart houses which are entirely automated by an Internet application will prevail,” it notes. “You will be able to heat up the food you left in the oven on your way home and even turn on your coffee machine. This will also apply to lighting, air conditioning, heating, fridges, dishwashers, and windows.”

Home for Life

Bells and whistles are fun, and definitely something 21st-century homeowners crave, but Roberts said the most resonant ideas still revolve around the way people connect. A home can facilitate that in different ways, from an open living plan complemented by a ‘get-away’ room — an office, TV, or game room — in another area of the house, to a move toward moving master suites downstairs.

“As people get up there in life, they’re saying, ‘I want to be here for the rest of my life; I want to age in place.’ With primary suites downstairs, they can live on first floor, with second-floor bedrooms for kids and grandkids, expanded family, and visitors,” he explained. “People are looking for houses that are flexible, that have the ability to absorb extended family.”

In downtown areas, where there aren’t as many buildable lots for single-family homes, other people prefer the community aspects and neighborhood walkability of condominiums and even co-housing projects, he added. “That’s about a lifestyle as much as a style of architecture.”

For those who aren’t in the market for a new home, the past few years, with the recession well in the distance, have proven a fertile time for renovations, Jacobs said.

“People had put a hold on home improvements, and now that the recession is over, we’re seeing more of them scheduling projects. We do a lot of kitchens, and some are adding a level and doubling the size of the house. It’s still cheaper to buy a house and fix it than build it from scratch.”

In all, architects and builders see a positive landscape for turning trendy ideas into something new — often working from something old.

“In this area,” Roberts said, “I’ve have the experience of working with all the various subcontractors putting these elements together, and I really enjoy working with all the great builders on these projects” — in other words, bringing ever-changing visions to life.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

NORTHAMPTON — Thornes Marketplace will begin a major renovation of its front entrance on Main Street the first week in April to make practical improvements as well as aesthetic ones that are historically accurate.

Richard Madowitz, Thornes owner and property manager, stressed that work on the entryway — one of the last phases of a multi-year capital-improvement project — will be conducted from 9:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. The front entrance will remain open daily during regular business hours.

“We plan to provide signage, wayfinding, and other helpful measures to minimize disruption, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our visitors as we know that Thornes is an integral part of downtown Northampton,” Madowitz said. After the project gets underway, he noted, visitors with questions or concerns can send feedback to [email protected]. Photographs will be available on Thornes’ Facebook page, and news and updates will appear at thornesmarketplace.com.

Over the past 10 years, Thornes Marketplace has undertaken a series of major renovations to improve and enhance the eclectic shopping center.

“This main-entrance renovation caps it off,” said Jon McGee, Thornes facilities manager, noting that some of the work in recent years was aimed at improving accessibility.

Thornes has partnered with Keiter Builders Inc. and Emily Estes of Estes Architecture and Design for the renovations to the entranceway. McGee said the practical goal of the project is to improve accessibility and make the entrance more user-friendly by replacing the 30-year-old wooden doors with wider doors equipped with modern power operators compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Aesthetic improvements will include a raised, coffered ceiling; new, custom-stained oak doors; dramatic chandelier lighting; and new floor tiling. The Florence Bank ATM enclosure will also be renovated to fit the period.

Company Notebook Departments

Big Y’s Growth Expands Distribution Center

SPRINGFIELD — It was in 1995 that Big Y expanded its three smaller distribution facilities into the former Rexnord Roller Chain Manufacturing Co. on Roosevelt Avenue in Springfield. At the time, a staff of 27 people distributed produce and other products to 31 supermarkets throughout the region. Three years later, Big Y’s corporate headquarters and store support center moved to the same site. Fast-forward to 2018, when Big Y’s distribution now supports 70 supermarkets out of the same space, and it is easy to see the need for an expanded facility. The current 189,000-square-foot distribution center has 19 receiving bays and operates round the clock seven days a week with a staff of 92 moving product through this system. In 1995, 3.5 million cases of product were shipped each year from this facility. Even eight years ago, Big Y’s distribution-center team shipped out nearly 15 million cases to stores. By the end of last year, that number had increased to more than 20 million cases. Therefore, Big Y plans an expansion in order to provide capacity for the next 20 years, with includes plans for 20 new supermarkets. The company anticipates a total of 53 dock doors are needed to manage this growth, along with an additional 232,000 square feet of space for a total of close to 425,000 square feet. This expansion will improve the efficiency of the flow of goods to all of stores and will require an additional 32 full-time employees at this site. Big Y has worked with Kevin Kennedy, Springfield’s chief Development officer, along with Mayor Domenic Sarno to develop a plan for this $35 million to $40 million project. In addition, Big Y is working with Springfield based Dennis Group, a local full service planning, architecture, engineering and construction management firm on this project. It is expected to be completed over the next 18 months.

UMass Dining App Wins Two Awards

AMHERST — The UMass Dining mobile app has been recognized in the Web Marketing Association’s sixth annual MobileWebAwards competition as both the Best University Mobile Application and the Best of Show Mobile Application of 2017. The UMass Dining mobile app’s key features include up-to-date menus, operating hours, and contact information for all dining common locations, the ability to view real-time traffic updates for each location, having access to UMass Dining’s on-campus events information, and the ability to personalize one’s menu for dietary preferences and allergens. Each website and mobile application in this year’s MobileWebAwards competition were assessed based on creativity, impact, design, content, interactivity, ease of use, and the use of the medium. Each entry was evaluated in comparison to the websites and mobile apps within the same format in its industry and then judged for an overall standard of excellence.

United Personnel Wins 2018 Best of Staffing Awards

SPRINGFIELD — United Personnel announced it has won Inavero’s Best of Staffing Client and Talent Awards for providing superior service to clients and job seekers. Presented in partnership with CareerBuilder, Inavero’s Best of Staffing winners have proven to be industry leaders in service quality based entirely on ratings by their clients and the employees they have helped find jobs. On average, clients of winning agencies are 2.3 times more likely to be completely satisfied. Job seekers who work with winning agencies are 1.7 times more satisfied with the services provided compared to those working with non-winning agencies. Focused on helping to connect people with the right job opportunities, United Personnel received satisfaction scores of 9 or 10 out of 10 from a significant amount of both clients and candidates placed in jobs, resulting in the recognition. These two awards are distinctions that fewer than 2% of all staffing agencies in the U.S. and Canada have earned.

Professional Drywall Construction Inc. Transfers Ownership

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Professional Drywall Construction Inc. (PDC) recently transferred ownership of the company to two of its employees. Ron Perry and Nick Shaink are now carrying on founder John Kendzierski’s legacy as a leading commercial drywall contractor in Southwestern New England. Former owner John Kendzierski will remain on the board of directors as a consultant. PDC will continue to operate from its West Springfield office, but in order to better serve the construction industry in Connecticut, it recently opened a second office in South Norwalk, Conn. The new location allows PDC to react more quickly to requests from Connecticut customers and provide additional on-site consultation in the Southern Conn. area. Affiliated with the carpenters and laborers union since 1997, PDC has grown to become a regional firm with more than employees, working in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. PDC is pre-qualified to work in both Massachusetts and Connecticut, and has a bonding capacity of up to $35 million, enabling it to accommodate virtually any size project.

PV Squared Welcomes Five New Worker-owners

GREENFIELD — PV Squared, a worker-owned cooperative and certified B Corp solar-installation company located in Greenfield, recently welcomed five new worker-owners to the ownership team. Each of the new worker-owners — Daniel Berry, Daniel Gomez, Doug Dedischew, Elliot Henry, and Ian Tapscott — has worked at PV Squared for at least two years before being promoted to worker-owner. PV Squared started with four co-owners in 2002 and has since grown to 44 employees, 24 of whom are worker-owners. There are thousands of worker-owned cooperatives around the world, and that number is growing. The cooperative model reflects a growing movement to create an economic and social alternative to ‘business as usual.’ In a worker-owned cooperative, the people who do the work make the decisions together, instead of having them handed down from an executive. It’s a think-on-your-feet model that allows workers to offer their perspective, suggest alternative methods, and affect real change in practices. PV Squared provides renewable-energy solutions to a wide range of clients, including business owners, commercial property owners, academic institutions, and homeowners in Western Mass. and surrounding regions.

MassMutual Foundation Gives $1 Million in Grants to Springfield Schools

SPRINGFIELD — The MassMutual Foundation Inc. — a dedicated corporate foundation established by MassMutual — announced it is providing $1 million to expand the City Connects program into eight additional elementary schools throughout Springfield. This grant aligns with the foundation’s focus on supporting programs that broaden economic opportunity for students and their families by transforming the system of learning. It is also consistent with the company’s recent decision to expand and reinvest in Massachusetts. City Connects, a national program executed by the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, launched in five Springfield public schools in September 2011 and has tripled its reach and impact, serving 15 schools in 2017. The MassMutual Foundation grant will enable City Connects to reach a total of 23 schools. The program provides support for students based on their individual needs by addressing out-of-school challenges that affect student success, and leverages existing community resources and support services to optimize students’ readiness to learn. During the 2016-17 school year, City Connects served more than 5,000 Springfield students, and nearly 100 community partners provided support and services to meet these students’ unique strengths, needs, and interests. Research has shown that the City Connects program significantly improves students’ academic performance; some positive long-term effects include lower dropout rates, higher test scores, and less chronic absenteeism.

HNE Gives Food Bank $30,000 to Support Puerto Rican Evacuees

HATFIELD — The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts announced it has received a $30,000 grant award from Health New England to support Puerto Rican evacuees settling in Western Mass. following Hurricane Maria. The Food Bank has been collaborating with community organizations throughout the region to provide evacuees with their most basic need: food. The grant award will fund the food needs of the two designated welcome centers with the greatest influx of new people: Springfield Family Resource Center and Enlace de Familias Resource Center of Holyoke. Since evacuees began arriving in Western Mass. last October, the Food Bank has been working with these local organizations to ensure everyone has access to healthy food. It has been making weekly deliveries to Enlace de Familias to provide food for approximately 125 families per week. The provisions of canned fruit and vegetables, soup, rice, beans, cereal, pasta, peanut butter, and other staples afford families nourishment as they get themselves settled. The Food Bank has also been delivering food weekly to the Springfield Family Resource Center. Additionally, its agency-relations team has been connecting families with other local partner feeding programs so they can continue to access healthy food, and SNAP coordinators have been on site in Holyoke, enrolling evacuees to receive federal SNAP food benefits.

Community Music School Wins Grant from MDRT Foundation

SPRINGFIELD — The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to Community Music School of Springfield (CMSS) through its Quality of Life Grant Program in honor of Jeanmarie Deliso, CFP. Through its global grants programs, the MDRT Foundation is committed to building stronger families and communities around the globe. This year, the MDRT Foundation will award more than $1 million in MDRT member-endorsed grants to more than 200 charitable organizations worldwide. Representing the MDRT Foundation, Deliso will present this grant to Community Music School of Springfield on March 23 at its board meeting. Trained in both music and special education, CMSS faculty work with Springfield classrooms to teach general music concepts in a way that is accessible to special-education students. The AMP Institute expands the reach of this work by training educators to use these methods in their classrooms.

Community Bank, N.A. Ranked Sixth in U.S. in Financial Performance

DEWITT, N.Y. — Forbes magazine recently ranked Community Bank, N.A. sixth in the nation for financial performance in a study analyzing 10 key metrics related to growth, asset quality, capital adequacy, and profitability for the nation’s 100 largest banks and thrifts. This is the seventh year running that Community Bank, N.A. has ranked among the top 15 banks on the list. Forbes began ranking America’s 100 largest publicly traded banks and thrifts after the financial crisis of the late 2000s. Community Bank, N.A. scored above all regional banks serving within the bank’s footprint.

Bumpy’s Natural and Organic Foods Moves to Agawam

AGAWAM — The West of the River Chamber of Commerce recently welcomed Bumpy’s Natural and Organic Foods to the Agawam community. Business owner Derryl “Bumpy” Gibbs and his sister Dishanda Robinson moved the retail store from Granby to the Agawam location last month. As the community becomes more health conscious, Gibbs felt the move was a good opportunity for Agawam and the surrounding region to “eat well, feel great, and save money” — the company’s slogan. It is a family-owned business looking to support healthy families. From an elaborate selection of herbal teas to shampoos to baby needs, Bumpy’s aims to meet the everyday needs of people looking to eat and live healthy, Gibbs said.

WFWM Receives Grant to Support Women’s Leadership Programs

SPRINGFIELD — The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) announced it has received a $25,000 grant from Irving and Sulamith Blackberg Charitable Foundation, Stanley Waxler, Joan Waxlerm and Bank of America, N.A., co-trustees. The unrestricted funds will directly support women and girls in Western Mass. who are participating in the Women’s Fund’s signature leadership-development programs, the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI) and the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI). Both programs are dedicated to serving local women and girls in their personal and professional leadership development. LIPPI is a non-partisan initiative that provides women with the tools, mentors, and confidence they need to become community leaders and elected officials. The program trains women in the nuts and bolts of impacting policy from a citizen perspective, and develops leadership confidence through 11 intensive workshops held in downtown Springfield over 10 months. YWI, a national, multi-sector project aimed at creating sustainable prosperity for young women, is a cooperative effort of eight women’s foundations across the U.S. The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts is leading the Springfield Partnership, a pilot program that aims to produce systems change in the region’s largest city.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — It was in 1995 that Big Y expanded its three smaller distribution facilities into the former Rexnord Roller Chain Manufacturing Co. on Roosevelt Avenue in Springfield. At the time, a staff of 27 people distributed produce and other products to 31 supermarkets throughout the region. Three years later, Big Y’s corporate headquarters and store support center moved to the same site.

Fast-forward to 2018, when Big Y’s distribution now supports 70 supermarkets out of the same space, and it is easy to see the need for an expanded facility. The current 189,000-square-foot distribution center has 19 receiving bays and operates round the clock seven days a week with a staff of 92 moving product through this system. In 1995, 3.5 million cases of product were shipped each year from this facility. Even eight years ago, Big Y’s distribution-center team shipped out nearly 15 million cases to stores. By the end of last year, that number had increased to more than 20 million cases.

A rendering of Big Y’s future expanded distribution center.

Therefore, Big Y plans an expansion in order to provide capacity for the next 20 years, with includes plans for 20 new supermarkets. The company anticipates a total of 53 dock doors are needed to manage this growth, along with an additional 232,000 square feet of space for a total of close to 425,000 square feet — the size of nearly nine football fields. This expansion will improve the efficiency of the flow of goods to all of stores and will require an additional 32 full-time employees at this site. It will include 152,000 square feet of additional dry product storage and 82,000 square feet of specialized refrigerated storage for various products.

Big Y’s distribution center also houses a large recycling area for cardboard and plastic wrap and serves as a staging ground for meat donations as they are sent to area food banks.

Currently, local farmers have the option of delivering their fruits and vegetables to this distribution facility in order to save them the time and expense of driving to Big Y’s individual stores while ensuring freshness and speedy deliveries. This expansion will make it more efficient for them to get their fresh produce to the distribution center so that they can quickly get back to their farms.

Big Y has worked with Kevin Kennedy, Springfield’s chief Development officer, along with Mayor Domenic Sarno to develop a plan for this $35 million to $40 million project. In addition, Big Y is working with Springfield based Dennis Group, a local full service planning, architecture, engineering and construction management firm on this project. It is expected to be completed over the next 18 months.

Other elements of this expansion include some renovation within Big Y’s headquarters including a new employee café and a test kitchen to develop and test new recipes, concepts, meals, dietary and nutritional options, and products before rolling them out to consumers. In addition, the test kitchen can host food tastings and focus groups as well as serve as additional training for store teams each week. Plans also include a new employee entrance and visitors welcome and reception area.

Big Y Foods Inc. is one of the largest independently owned supermarket chains in New England, operating 78 locations throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut — including 70 supermarkets, 39 pharmacies, Fresh Acres Market, Table & Vine Fine Wines and Liquors, and six Big Y Express gas and convenience locations — and employing more than 11,000 people.

Departments People on the Move
James Harnsberger

James Harnsberger

After an extended national search, James Harnsberger has been named associate vice president for Graduate Education, Grants, and Sponsored Research at Springfield College. President Mary-Beth Cooper and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Martha Potvin recently made the announcement. Harnsberger will join the college on Feb. 15, and will be responsible for elevating the status of graduate education at Springfield College as well as for increasing the college’s capacity to generate and support externally funded grants and sponsored funding. “In both of these primary responsibilities, his thoughtful approach, his experiences in supporting students and the work of faculty, and his success in managing large contracts and overseas operations will serve him well,” said Potvin. A linguist and speech scientist with extensive experience in experimental phonetics, forensic acoustics, and clinical applications, Harnsberger comes to Springfield College from the University of New Haven, having previously overseen the launch of an international branch campus as campus dean. His responsibilities included international grants and contracts, program development, and operations, as well as the inaugural Academic Bridge Program for international students at UNH. Harnsberger earned his doctorate in linguistics from the University of Michigan, where he conducted research on cross-language variation in the perception of non-native speech sounds. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at Indiana University, he served at the Department of Linguistics at the University of Florida, conducting research on the perception of speaker characteristics such age, gender, emotion, dialect, stress, and deception. His research has been published in numerous academic journals and reported in the popular media, including ABC News Primetime, BBC Radio, and Science News. He has served as a linguistic consultant in numerous criminal and civil cases in the U.S., as well as government agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Defense Academy for Credibility Assessment, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Armed Services Committee.

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Dr. Mark Dumais

Dr. Mark Dumais

Dr. Mark Dumais was appointed to the position of chief medical officer for Mercy Medical Center. In this position, he provides clinical leadership and administrative direction in developing and attaining strategic and operating objectives related to medical practice and patient care at Mercy Medical Center and its affiliates. He also serves as a liaison between administration and the medical staff and provides leadership in advancing quality initiatives, clinical care, patient satisfaction, and physician/employee satisfaction. With almost 20 years of clinical leadership experience, Dumais most recently served as a medical hospitalist at Massachusetts General Hospital and as an instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Before coming to Boston, he served as chief medical officer and Senior Vice President of the University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center (UMCRMC) in LaPlata, Md., where he oversaw performance management, quality, safety, risk management, compliance, and privacy, and gained extensive experience in population health, physician network planning, and information technology. Prior to his role at UMCRMC, he served as vice president of Medical Affairs, clinical chief of Internal Medicine, and director of hospitalists at Southern Maryland Hospital Center in Clinton. Board-certified in internal medicine, Dumais received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in Boston and completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C. In addition to his medical education, he holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “Dr. Dumais brings a wide range of clinical, operational, and leadership experience to this important position at Mercy Medical Center. We are pleased to welcome him to the Mercy team,” said Mark Fulco, president of Mercy Medical Center and its affiliates. Added Dumais, “Mercy Medical Center has a longstanding reputation for delivering high-quality, patient-centered care, and I welcome the opportunity to serve as a leader at this outstanding facility.

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Karri May

Karri May

Pinck & Co. Inc., a comprehensive real-estate-development and project-management services firm, announced Karri May joined the firm’s Springfield office as senior project manager. May brings to the firm 13 years of design and planning experience with a focus on healthcare, design for the aging, commercial, and higher education. She also has extensive client-management and business-development experience and will help grow the firm’s portfolio in Western Mass. and Connecticut. She previously worked at Steffian Bradley Architects as senior associate, where she specialized in the design and planning of healthcare projects in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. Prior to that, she worked at Amenta/Emma Architects as a project architect, focusing on design for higher education, commercial, and senior housing/accommodations. May earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Pratt Institute and is a registered architect in Connecticut, a member of the American Institute of Architects, and a LEED-accredited professional. She also holds a Massachusetts Certified Public Purchasing Official Program designation and a Lean for Healthcare certificate. She is a frequent keynote speaker at industry and community events, has volunteered as a design mentor with CANstruction — a charitable organization for the design and construction industry — and has received several awards, including a Woman on the Rise designation from the Connecticut Professional Women in Construction. “As we continue to position our business to grow in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut, I am thrilled that Karri has joined our team,” said Jennifer Pinck, president and founder of Pinck & Co. “Not only does she bring a high level of expertise in planning and design and project management, she is passionate about the lasting impact built environments have on communities. Karri shares our commitment to putting our clients’ best interests first and going above and beyond to help them realize their vision.”

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MGM Springfield President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Mathis announced that his full executive team is now in place. The team, a diverse group of industry professionals, will lead operations for MGM Springfield, set to open later this year. “This is an all-star team,” Mathis said. “Together, they bring years of experience and a broad expanse of skills that strengthens the deep bench of talent we already have in place. Each of them is committed, not only to the day-to-day objectives of their positions, but also to the greater role this property will play in the community. This team is the backbone of MGM Springfield, and we will proudly reflect and represent the diversity of the region in which we work.” For the 12th consecutive year, MGM Resorts International has been recognized as a Top Company for Diversity by DiversityInc, one of the nation’s leading sources on workplace-diversity management. Almost 69% of the company’s employees are minorities. About 44% of employees in MGM Resorts’ management ranks are women, while minorities comprise 43% of MGM Resorts’ management ranks. “The beating heart of MGM Springfield is our commitment to diversity,” Mathis said. Besides Mathis, the MGM Springfield management team also includes Anthony Caratozzolo, vice president, Food & Beverage; Alex Dixon, general manager; Anika Gaskins, vice president, National Marketing; Brian Jordan, director, Surveillance; Monique Messier, executive director, Sales; Sarah Moore, Vice President, Marketing, Advertising & Brand; Marikate Murren, vice president, Human Resources; Jason Rosewell, vice president, Facilities; Jason Rucker, executive director, Security; Lynn Segars, vice president, Slot Operations; Gregg Skowronski, executive director, Hotel Operations; Talia Spera, executive director, Arena Operations; Seth Stratton, vice president and general counsel; Courtney Wenleder, vice president and chief financial officer; and Robert Westerfield, vice president, Table Games. In 2000, MGM Resorts became the first company in the gaming and hospitality industry to voluntarily adopt a formal diversity and inclusion policy. This is a critical pillar of the company’s enterprise-wide social-responsibility platform, which also includes community giving and environmental sustainability as key elements.

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Mary Chiecko

Mary Chiecko

AdCare chose Mary Chiecko, Community Services representative for Western Mass., as its Employee of the Month for January. “Mary Chiecko is always positive and a great listener, which is key to knowing what our referral sources need and want,” said Georganna Koppermann, vice president of Marketing and Development at AdCare. “As part of ‘Team Springfield,’ Mary has connected new patients with our expert clinical staff helping to make Springfield the second-largest outpatient office in our system.” Chiecko’s diverse sales experience includes working as a toxicology representative, presenting services to addiction-treatment facilities, primary-care physicians, and pain-management practices regionally. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from American International College in Springfield.

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Megan Murphy Wolf

Megan Murphy Wolf

The Solidago Foundation, a Northampton-based national social-justice foundation, announced it has hired Megan Murphy Wolf as director of partnerships. A newly created position, the director of partnerships will focus on developing, supporting, and enhancing partnerships for the Solidago Foundation. Wolf will be responsible for the design and implementation of donor cultivation and engagement, as well as foundation partnership strategies. “Megan joins our team with deep expertise in creating meaningful partnerships across unlikely actors, as well as a legislative background that will enhance our support of grassroots advocacy groups,” said Elizabeth Barajas-Román, CEO of the foundation. “We are happy to welcome her at this exciting time for the organization.” Wolf brings a strong background in both development and public-policy work. Prior to joining Solidago, she worked as director of class campaigns and annual fund leadership giving at Amherst College. During her time at Amherst, she was successful in her personal solicitations, securing multi-year pledges and outright gifts, increasing the yearly totals by 300% and successfully breaking Amherst giving and participation records every year. She has also worked as legislative director for two congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives. “This is an incredible opportunity to be a part of an organization with a long history of impact within the field of social justice, sustainability, and the fundamental right to work,” Wolf said. “I have focused my career on these important issues, and I believe we have the ability to create positive social change through collaboration and collective support for shared goals. I’m honored to join the Solidago family and be a part of this impressive group of people dedicated to support for the common good.” Throughout her career, Wolf has worked to create partnerships, both political in nature and as fund-building coalitions, to bring about positive social change. As director of partnerships, she will be responsible for working on developing programming and content for donor recognition and campaign-related programs and events for the foundation. “I am thrilled to have Megan join our team and looking forward to working with someone with her expertise as we move forward with our new business model,” said Jeff Rosen, chief financial officer of the foundation. “Adding Megan to the team will enhance our ability to bring resources to the field and amplify our impact at an important time for our partners.”

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Marty Holmes was recently named top corporate search consultant at Management Search Inc. Holmes, president of the West Springfield division of the privately held recruiting firm, was recognized with the organization’s prestigious President’s Club Award for sales excellence in 2017. This year also marked Holmes’ 30th anniversary with Management Search Inc. Throughout his tenure, Holmes has worked to perfect a time-tested recruitment process and, in the process, has established deep roots in the market with a diverse client base in manufacturing and a niche focus within the shooting-sports industry. His hands-on consultative approach, along with his extensive knowledge of the industries he works in, have worked together to build and strengthen his reputation among clients and candidates alike. Headquartered in West Springfield with an office in Providence, R.I., Management Search Inc. has grown to become one of the largest privately held recruiting firms in New England, boasting 35 years of recruiting experience and 15 established consultants.

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On Jan. 1, Aelan Tierney became the third principal and the president of Kuhn Riddle Architects. Tierney joins Jonathan Salvon and Charles Roberts, who became principals in 2010 when Chris Riddle retired. John Kuhn passes the torch of leadership and ownership to these three, and he will continue to work on selected projects at Kuhn Riddle. Kuhn Riddle Architects moves into the future as a woman-owned architecture firm as Tierney now owns the majority share of the company. She will continue to work on architectural project design, while also taking on a larger role in day-to-day management of the firm, focusing on business growth and maintaining a strong connection with clients and business partners. “I see this transition as an opportunity to carry on the legacy of Kuhn Riddle Architects, as well as an opportunity for growth,” said Tierney, who has been an architect at Kuhn Riddle Architects since August 2005. “I am honored that the partners have put their faith and trust in me to take on such an important leadership role. We will continue the company culture and its legacy of good design, excellent service, commitment to the environment, and giving back to our community that John Kuhn and Chris Riddle have built over the last 40 years.” Kuhn Riddle projects in which Tierney has played a lead role include Amherst Montessori School and Children First in Granby, the Kringle Candle flagship store and Farm Table Restaurant in Bernardston, the historic Easthampton Town Hall performance space for CitySpace, the Northeast Veterans Rehabilitation and Training Center in Gardner, Olympia Oaks multi-family affordable housing in Amherst, PVPA Charter School Theater in South Hadley, and projects at American International College, Western New England University, and Elms College. Kuhn Riddle Architects has been in business since Riddle and Kuhn founded it in 1977, when they negotiated a $500 fee to produce a design for Northampton’s Armory building renovation and rented two drafting tables in a fellow architect’s office. Since that time, the firm has become a well-known architectural firm in the Pioneer Valley and designs commercial, educational, and residential projects throughout Massachusetts.

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Terry Ramey

Terry Ramey

A seasoned chief information officer for some of the world’s largest healthcare payor organizations, Terry Ramey has joined Holyoke-based healthcare consultancy VertitechIT as an executive project officer (EPO). He will lead engagements with large healthcare systems as the company continues to expand operations throughout the East Coast and across the country. Ramey previously held senior technology titles at PerformRX (a subsidiary of AmeriHealth Caritas), Penn Mutual Life Insurance, CIGNA Health Services, and Dendrite International. As a nationally recognized healthcare technology executive, he says he was looking to make an impact on the provider side of the industry. “At CIGNA, Penn Mutual, and other major payor organizations, my responsibilities were to leverage technology to positively affect the bottom line,” he noted. “At VertitechIT, I have the opportunity to help transform hospital IT departments with a direct impact on patient care. It’s not often that an IT executive gets to do that.” VertitechIT CEO Michael Feld agrees. “Our work at work at major health systems goes far beyond designing and implementing cloud strategies, overhauling infrastructure, and streamlining operations. As an EPO, Terry will counsel clients on the IT initiatives that can literally change the way doctors do their jobs.” Working at the executive level within a healthcare organization, EPOs oversee a collaborative office of the CTO (oCTO), implementing VertitechIT’s proprietary LeverageIT process. Working side by side with senior internal managers, the oCTO refines strategic directives and implements tactical solutions that make organizations more profitable and efficient.

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Max Kiperman joined the Red Lion Inn culinary team as executive chef of the Red Lion Inn’s Main Dining Room, Widow Bingham’s Tavern, and the Lion’s Den. As executive chef, Kiperman will work closely with Vice President of Culinary Development Brian Alberg and Sous Chef Jim Corcoran on all future food- and beverage-related development in addition to day-to-day kitchen management. With a tenure of more than 25 years in the culinary industry, Kiperman comes to the Red Lion Inn most recently from Lucca in Boston’s Back Bay, where he worked as sous chef, and as culinary consultant to the Viceroy Hotel and Resort in Zihuantanejo, Mexico. Kiperman began his culinary career at Rosalie’s Restaurant in Marblehead before training under three Michelin chefs, including Sylvain Portay and Alain Ducasse. Kiperman now brings his expertise and passion for cooking with locally sourced products to the Berkshires. “Max’s diverse culinary portfolio and his commitment to the farm-to-table movement make him the perfect addition to lead the Red Lion Inn’s culinary team,” said Alberg. “We are confident his leadership and expertise will elevate the inn’s dining experience and continue to evolve the offerings to exceed our guests’ culinary expectations.” Kiperman’s extensive résumé includes work in hotels and resorts such as the Ritz Carlton properties in San Francisco, New York City, and Boston, and the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort in Nevis West Indies; restaurants like On Lot Restaurant in Hong Kong and Mix Restaurant in Las Vegas; and work as a private chef in New York and Connecticut. Recently refreshed breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus await guests at the Red Lion Inn’s Main Dining Room and Widow Bingham’s Tavern, highlighting the inn’s long-standing relationships with local and regional purveyors. The inn offers guests two additional dining options, the Lion’s Den, with nightly live entertainment, and seasonal outdoor dining in the Courtyard from June through September.

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The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, in partnership with the Estate Planning Council of Hampden County and the Pioneer Valley Estate Planning Council, has awarded Kate Kane the 2018 Distinguished Advisor in Philanthropy Award. The award was presented by Katie Allan Zobel, president and CEO of the Community Foundation, and Amy Jamrog, wealth management advisor at the Jamrog Group, at a luncheon on Jan. 9. The purpose of the Distinguished Advisor in Philanthropy Award is to recognize the important work that professional advisors (estate-planning attorneys, financial advisors, and accountants) do in encouraging their clients to engage in local philanthropy for the region. As Zobel noted, “professional advisors play a quiet and often unsung role in advancing philanthropy. The Community Foundation has been working alongside local advisors for over 25 years, and we see first-hand the meaningful work they do by connecting their clients’ generous intentions to needs in our community. Their efforts have helped create a significant base of funding for scholarships and grants to nonprofits in our region.” Zobel also said she is pleased to be giving this award to its first female recipient. Past awardees include George Keady III, Dick Gaberman, Dennis Bidwell, Jack Ferriter, and Steven Schwartz. Kane received a plaque and $1,000 to recommend as a grant to the charity of her choice. Kane is managing director of Northwestern Mutual in Springfield, where she matches clients’ needs with innovative solutions utilizing insurance services and internationally recognized investment products. “Financial advising is a business of words and stories,” she said. “The numbers are simply tools to further the pursuit of hopes and dreams for ourselves, our families, and our communities. We give our clients the gift of listening to their stories and helping them connect with the right decisions to fulfill their aspirations and leave a legacy.” Well-known for her volunteerism and philanthropic spirit, Kane is a former board member (2008-15) and past board president of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. She currently serves on the boards of directors for Elms College and Girls Inc. of Holyoke and is vice chair of the board of trustees for Springfield Museums. She co-wrote the original business plan for the local chapter of the Dress for Success, which supports the career and economic advancement of women, and she serves as a business mentor for many young entrepreneurs in the region. Kane has been recognized with many awards in the past for her commitment to strengthening her community, including Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield’s Richard J. Moriarty Citizen of the Year in 2015, Western Mass Women magazine’s Professional Woman of the Year in 2012, Professional Women’s Chamber Woman of the Year in 2011, and a BusinessWest Difference Maker in 2009.

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Edward Alford of South Hadley was installed as president of the 1,800-member Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley on Jan. 9. The installation of officers and directors took place at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. More than 100 people attended the organization’s 103rd annual installation ceremony. Donald Thompson, the association’s 2008 president, served as emcee for the event. The other officers installed were Kelly Bowman as president-elect, Sue Drumm as treasurer, Elias Acuna as secretary, and Rick Sawicki as immediate past president. The directors installed include Shawn Bowman, Peter Davies, Janise Fitzpatrick, Sara Gasparrini, Sharyn Jones, Cheryl Malandrinos, Sue Rheaume, and Russell Sabadosa. Alford was joined by Massachusetts Assoc. of Realtors (MAR) President Rita Coffey, who served as the installing officer. Coffey’s leadership team from MAR was also in attendance, including Anne Meczywor, president-elect; Kurt Thompson, secretary/treasurer; Paul Yorkis, immediate past president; and Rob Authier, CEO.

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Heather Roy recently completed the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Pro Coach certification at Conca Sport and Fitness (CSF). Members have been losing more than 20 pounds thanks to the innovative nutrition and fitness plan offered by Precision Nutrition and Conca Sport and Fitness, CSF owner Steve Conca said. He added that being able to deliver comprehensive fitness and nutrition programming that gets results and is easily adaptable for busy lifestyles was paramount in the company’s decision to move forward with the certification program. CSF, which opened in 2009, provides fitness coaching both online and in the studio, either in a one-on-one or small-group environment.