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Ex-Skyplex bar to become 'anchor' for Stearns Square development in Springfield

November 2, 2015 : Springfield Republican, by Jim Kinney

MassDevelopment, a statewide economic development agency, has purchased the Skyplex bar building on Stearns Square for $600,000. (The Republican file photo by / Mark M. Murray )

SPRINGFIELD - MassDevelopment, a statewide economic development agency, has purchased the Skyplex bar building on Stearns Square for $600,000.

The purchase includes a partnership agreement with the Springfield Business Improvement District in order to redevelop the property into an enterprise that will bring customers downtown. The agencies involved announced the deal Monday.

"The plan is to take what has been a vacant building and use it as an anchor for what will become the dining and innovation district in the heart of downtown," said Chris Russell, executive director of the BID.

In May, the International Communion of the Holy Christian Orthodox Church purchased the property at 8-12 Stearns Square for $500,000, according to records. MassDevelopment has bought the building from the church, Russell said.

The BID had been in discussions with the church to buy the building on its own.

The Skyplex purchase is MassDevelopment's first TDI Investment through the Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) program and the Commonwealth's Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Transformative Development Fund, according to a news release.

The state legislature put $1 million into the fund in 2014 and MassDevelopment invested $13 million, said MassDevelopment spokeswoman Kelsey Abbruzzese. MassDevelopment's buy in came from the sale of a building at 100 Cambridge St. in Boston, she said.

MassDevelopment is the state's finance and development agency and works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions and communities. During fiscal year 2015, MassDevelopment financed or managed 294 projects generating investment of more than $2.5 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are projected to create about 6,100 jobs and build or rehabilitate about 2,000 residential units.

In Springfield, MassDevelopment bought 1550 Main St., the former federal building, in 2009 and has redeveloped it into office space.

The TDI  program focuses investment in the state's Gateway Cities and the Skyplex building is in Springfield's TDI District.

A local TDI Partnership - the City, DevelopSpringfield, MassMutual and the BID - supports increased programming in the square and the surrounding area.

According to the release, the city is planing upgrades to Stearns Square Park.

A redeveloped property at 8-12 Stearns Square will work with other ongoing projects:

Russell said the Business Improvement District is still formulating plans for the  19,921-square-foot Skyplex building. It could have as many as three separate rentable spaces. One idea is a restaurant.

Another idea is a miniature version of Boston's Faneuil Hall or Quincy Marketplace where several businesses would have stalls.

Neighbors had complained about the crowds and noise associated with the Skyplex night club.

In January of 2014, the city's License Commission denied the previous owners' plans to reopen the former Skyplex as a two-story bar.

Kevin Kennedy, the city's chief development office said: "The BID continues to partner with the City, the Chamber, DevelopSpringfield and the Parking Authority to enhance the Central Business District. This purchase is clear evidence of their commitment to downtown."

© Copyright 2015 Springfield Republican.