Friday, March 2, 2007

Chestnut Junior High Going Condo

The planned $259 million dollar expansion of Baystate Medical Center, announced two weeks ago, is certainly a welcome shot in the arm for Springfield, and especially the North end. Who would have guessed the booster-shot would come so soon?

Chestnut junior high school, once a magnificent edifice of education, now shuttered and fading fast, will soon be restored to its former grandeur. Or at least into some nice, market-priced condos in a cool old building. Mayor Charles Ryan and David Panagore, director of economic development for the city, this week announced the selection of Miramar Real Estate Management Inc. as the city's choice of two bids received to rehabilitate the building, which has been growing cobwebs behind plywood windows since 2004. With 100% private funding, Miramar plans on converting the 104-year old school - which had a build cost of $135,961 in 1903 - into 110 one and two-bedroom condominium units, representing an expected investment in excess of 30 million dollars.

The two projects, BMC's expansion and Chestnut's condos, seem a perfect match, with BMC's plans to add more than 500 new faces to its already almost 3,800 strong workforce. Faces who need places. (Ouch.)

There wasn't much private interest in the project initially, if the turn-out for the tour of the building given by the city to interested parties on September 13th of last year is any indication. Other than Miramar's rival bidder, HAP Inc., the taxpayer-funded regional housing provider, only two other people showed up, both representatives of the New North Citizen's Council.

Chestnut was originally built to serve as a grammar school, during a frenzy of school-building that occured in the city at the dawn of the 20th Century. Classical, Technical, and Forest Park were a few of the schools built in this era of rapid growth. The city's investment in educational infrastructure during the time period spanning 1888 to 1904 - the years of Dr. Thomas M. Balliet's tenure as school superintendent - was reported to be over one million dollars.

On a personal note, my two youngest sons attended Chestnut junior high school in the 1990s and were members of the last student body of the school and the first student body of the new school on Plainfield street. The building was kept open as a site for alternative education programs for a time after, until it was ultimately closed, being declared unfit for use.

And now: life.

Here's the Republican/MassLive article on the announcement from yesterday, Heather Brandon's piece about it on Urban Compass, and a post at Bill Dusty's Earth to Bill with some up-to-date photos of Chestnut school.

I posted here about Baystate Medical's plans a couple of weeks ago with 'Just What the Doctor Ordered.'

Photo source: American Memory Collection, Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing, Digital ID: det.4a23743. (Chestnut street grammar school, c. 1905-1915)


sojourner said...

Maybe when Chestnut Jr. High is brought back to life, someone will invest in restoring the brick mansion behind the school. It's a beauty!

MTA said...

I've always admired that building. It is probably on pretty rough shape on the inside, vagrants etc. have been using it for years.

I wonder if that parcel was included in the redevelopment proposal? Heather Brandon's article mentioned other structures being included in the package.

Parking will be an issue there, too. I remember when Roma and I would go to school functions there, people would park on the dirt in front of the building that once was a beautifully landscaped lawn. I always felt guilty doing that.

Heather B said...

From the bid details: "The property consists of seven distinct parcels including a vacant school built in 1901 on a 138,916 square foot lot as well as six adjacent parcels which combine for an additional 23,167 square feet." I'll see if I can find out more. Miramar's proposal is available to the public and may include a site plan or some such.

MTA said...

Thanks Heather!

I should have used the term parcel instead of structure in my above comment.

P.S. I loved your "I am the crazy cat lady" story!

Heather B said...

Hi Mark!

To follow up on this post, which I just found again thanks to Bill Dusty pointing to it, I did go fetch Miramar's winning bid and put together photos and descriptions. Here's a link since my old Valley Advocate links don't work anymore:

The whole project was estimated a year ago to be complete about 30 months after it begins.

Mark T. Alamed said...

Thanks Heather!

It's good to hear from you. Thanks for the link.

It would be nice to see some progress on the conversion. Hopefully it's a case of 'all good things take time.'

Take care!