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General Contractor Hired For Springfield Court Square Project

The six story building in Springfield's Court Square known as 31 Elm Street

  A milestone was announced today in a long sought urban renewal project in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts.

    Fontaine Brothers, an 85-year-old Springfield-based construction company, has been hired as the general contractor on the $52 million project to redevelop the long-derelict Court Square Hotel into apartments.

   Construction work is expect to begin before winter on the project that has been called the golden goose of downtown revitalization.  The prize has eluded generations of developers and city officials.

  Standing in front of the empty six-story block-long building that dates to the early 1900s, speaker-after-speaker Wednesday praised the hiring of Fontaine Brothers. 

  Mayor Domenic Sarno said examples of the company’s work can be found all over the city and the region.

"Whether its my beloved South End Community Center, they're going to be doing DeBerry-Homer (school) for me, they built Pope Francis (High School), the garage for (the) MGM (casino), you can go on and on and on," Sarno said.

  David Fontaine Jr., the fourth generation of his family to run the business, said they are “very thrilled and proud” to have been selected as the general contractor for the project.

  "To be a part of seeing it come to fruition is something that is going to be a highlight for our firm, an iconic project for us," Fontaine said.

  The project will repurpose the historic building in the heart of the Metro Center into 74 one- and two-bedroom apartments with a fine-dining restaurant on the ground floor.

  Opal Real Estate of Springfield and Winn Companies of Boston are the co-developers of the project.  Mike O’Brien of Winn said several builders bid for the work and were interviewed before Fontaine Brothers was hired.

  "When you meet with them personally, you recognize they are highly skilled with an incredible depth of knowledge and expertise in the world of historic adaptive reuse and they use a bench of local workforce and their union subcontractors to take on this complex, very complex, historic adaptive reuse project -- one of the most complex projects Winn has done and we've done over 40 of these throughout the country," O'Brien said.

   Construction is expected to be completed in about 2 years.   

    "We have to get this project underway as soon as possible," O'Brien said. "The building condition really can not stand another winter as is, so time is not our friend."

       Last year, the city hired a firm to remove asbestos, lead, and other hazards from the interior of the building and to shore up the roof to prevent more water damage inside.

     There are nine public and private entities that have committed to fund the project.  About $11 million in financing is coming from state and federal historic tax credits. 

     Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal, who is credited with saving the federal historic tax credit program from elimination in 2017, said without it, the Court Square Hotel redevelopment would not be happening.

     "This has a very significant past and I think a very optimistic future," Neal said.

     The construction work will be done under what is known as a project labor agreement, where the general contractor agrees to hire union tradespeople.

     Colton Andrews, president of the Pioneer Valley Building Trades Council, said the project will create 100-125 jobs.


The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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