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Auto Dealerships Expanding to Brockton

March 6, 2011 : The Boston Globe, by Emily Sweeney

A major Framingham car dealer is expanding its turf and constructing new Honda and Hyundai dealerships in Brockton, just off Route 24.

One of those new auto showrooms will feature something not often seen in auto dealerships: a 1950s-style diner.

Bernardi Auto Group says its new dealership buildings, located on the corner of Manley and West Chestnut streets, should be open for business in late April or early May.

“It’s a fairly significant expansion for us,” said Amy D. Rossi, vice president at Bernardi. “We currently have four dealerships; we’re adding two more. It’s a large piece of property, and it’s a new market.”

The company is adding a two-story, 50,000-square-foot Honda dealership and a single-story, 28,000-square-foot Hyundai dealership.

Each dealership will contain its own sales offices, vehicle showrooms, and service and repair facilities.

The Honda building will also house the diner, which will have about 32 seats, some at the counter, some in booths.

“I think this will be a real attraction,” said Mark F. Regent of Regent Associates Inc., an architectural firm in Westborough that designed the buildings.

The property at 300 Manley St. was formerly home to Northern Isles, a company that produced knits and clothing. The large industrial building it once occupied was demolished last summer to make way for the new dealerships.

The project has been touted by the Patrick administration for creating construction jobs and bringing in new permanent jobs to the area.

The development got a jump-start with a $16 million Recovery Zone Facility Bond issued by MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development authority. (Rossi said it offered long-term financing at a fixed rate, but declined to give specifics.)

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in October, attended by Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki, and other state and local officials.

State Representative Michael D. Brady, a Democrat and lifelong Brockton resident, also applauded the project, saying the city of Brockton had not seen such a large-scale investment “in at least 10 years.”

Brockton Mayor Linda M. Balzotti said the dealerships would add to the city’s commercial tax base and bring needed jobs to Brockton.

“This project is a win-win for Brockton,” Balzotti said in an e-mail.

“Bernardi is making a $20 million investment, and bringing 200 jobs to the city in the next two years,” she said. “In addition to the added revenue, the two new auto dealerships will serve as a gateway, not only to Brockton, but the city's economic future.”

Bernardi currently operates dealerships in Framingham, Natick, and Brighton. This marks its first venture into Brockton.

Rossi said Honda had been looking to open a dealership in the area, and Bernardi got permission from the automaker to open a franchise in Brockton after it found the Manley Street property.

“The auto manufacturers do fairly extensive studies of new markets,” said Rossi. “For Honda, this was a target market for them.”

There are currently no Honda dealers in Brockton; the nearest ones are in Norwood, Raynham, and Weymouth. But with other car dealers nearby — Copeland Toyota, Paul Clark Volkswagen, and Nissan 24 — “it’s a little bit of an automotive area already,” said Rossi.

She said the Manley Street project is moving along as expected. “I think we're pretty much on schedule,” she said.

Rossi estimated the cost of the project at $22 million to $24 million. The building is being done by Construction Management & Builders Inc. of Lynnfield.

© Copyright 2011 The Boston Globe.