Court Square Building
When or whether Clarke School will eventually sign over their land to Opal Development, owned by Peter Picknelly, remains an open question. Seven months have gone by. Optomism is in the air at city hall, but the recent sudden demise of their cab company should make everyone realize that Peter Senior is no longer running the outfit, and the kids and their managers are not above pulling the plug on commitments, if they are losing money. But Opal, if they have not been seen recently at the Clarke campus, does have an ongoing project down in Westfield. Opal was organized in March 2008. They were designated as having “preferred developer status” by the Springfield Redevelopment Authority(SRA) on July 13 of 2011 for the Court Square building in downtown Springfield.
Before Opal took it on, there was another development group who failed to come up with a plan. It’s a huge old building that Opal wants to convert to office space, and thanks to a lot of federal and state grant money, the city has fixed up the sidwalks and planted trees, but the building, which is right across from city hall, is still boarded up and empty. In March Opal said there was “tremendous interest” in the space, but nothing is happening right now. I talked with Christopher Moskal, head of the SRA and he said that they have yet to sign the building over to Opal, who he said is conducting “due diligence” and getting its historic preservation tax credits from the State of Massachusetts. (more on this later) They expect to give them another extension this July 13th. If Opal has a low profile here, it’s probably because they are going flat out in Westfield, where they are racing to rehab an old state training school and get it ready by September. The college deeded them the property and Easthampton Savings gave them $3 million in financing. When I was there last week, they were gutting the attic area, and a landscaping contractor was there. University Housing LLC is the holding company. Anyway, it’s a project that Clarke neighbors can use as a benchmark as to what kind of work they are doing. It’s at 27 Washington Street in Westfield. Here is a link to the project.