After 20 years of sitting vacant and more than two years of renovations, the old Heer’s Building on the northwest corner of Park Central Square re-opened today as Heer’s Luxury Living with a ribbon cutting.
Zachary Nichols is project manager with the Dalmark Development Corporation, the company that finally got the building renovation accomplished.
"Today is just a wonderful celebration of all the pain, sweat and tears that we've put in over the last two and a half years. It's great to sit back, see all of the smiles on everyone's faces and just enjoy the moment," he said.
Nichols says there was a lot of pessimism as the renovations were underway. According to Nichols, even while the building was under construction, people didn’t believe the project would get done.
"Which is perfectly understandable given the history of the building with all the people that had failed," he said.
He says the reason they succeeded where others had failed is because Dalmark approaches everything with a level of conservatism. He says they don’t attempt deals until numbers are crunched and they know they can be accomplished.
The $15.8 million Heer’s project includes 80 units of luxury rental housing and 18,000 square feet of commercial space. According to the City of Springfield, the financing for the project was achieved with private equity, a small business development loan from the City of Springfield and construction loans. It also qualified for state and federal historic preservation tax incentives—Heer’s was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
The first floor commercial space will be occupied by IntrinsiQ Specialty Solutions. The company, a part of AmerisourceBergen, is a supplier of electronic health records, financial management systems and pharmaceutical analytics for independent physicians, according to its senior director, Doug Fiester.
Rusty Worley was part of the crowd at a grand opening celebration this morning. The executive director of the Downtown Springfield Association, says they’ve been waiting a long time for this moment.
"It breathes new life, it opens a new chapter for the Heer's Building and it really sends a signal across the region that downtown revitalization has really taken hold and is going to the next level," he said.
He says, while there may be some people who wanted to see retail stores and restaurants open up on the ground floor of the Heer’s Building, the employees IntrinsiQ will bring to downtown Springfield will help with the continued revitalization effort.
"It is good to see this office side develop because that will help us have good lunch time and early evening activity. We've long been strong in the arts and the restaurant side, but this just broadens our base," he said.
Springfield City Manager Greg Burris has been around long enough to remember Heer’s as a department store. The store opened in 1915 and closed in 1995. He calls the grand opening a milestone moment for the city, especially for those who remember the building as it used to be.
"We remember shopping in Heer's. Some of us remember our parents bring us here. Some of us Santa Claus, the candy counter, the mezzanine, and, so, to see this building be redeveloped like it is is really a milestone moment," he said.
Burris says Springfield’s old buildings are its heritage and they give the community character. So, so see another one saved, he says, is a positive thing for the city.
"While we love new building as well, these buildings that have character and have this history, there's nothing like them, and when you redevelop those buildings, not only are you honoring your history, but you're also creating these cool new spaces that become very hip. The next generation--I know my daughter and her generation love coming downtown, and I think part of the reason they love coming downtown is the ambience and the character of these buildings," he said.
Rusty Worley says it’s a good time for downtown Springfield. He points to the upcoming openings of Sky Eleven (the old Woodruff Building), The Sterling and the recent opening of the Vandivort Hotel.
"In total, almost $100 million worth of projects are wrapping up here this fall, and we're now up to 800 loft apartments downtown, so an exciting mix," he said.
Fourteen people are already living in the Heer’s Building, which opened ten days ago. Zachary Nichols says seven have signed leases and will move in within the next month and others have expressed interest.
The residential areas feature one and two-bedroom units ranging from 620 to 1,605 square feet with an onsite fitness center, theater entertainment room, clubhouse lounge with a rooftop deck and a centralized pet bath.