In the intense competition to get licensed to sell recreational marijuana in Springfield, Massachusetts, one company is hoping historic preservation gives it an edge.
Chris Mitchem, CEO of Diem Cannabis, led about two dozen curious people on a tour of the historic Hampden Bank building, and talked about plans to use it as a recreational marijuana store, should the company get the necessary permits from the city and a license from the state.
The interior of the 101-year old building is musty with crumbling plaster and peeling paint. But architectural features are intact including marble walls, a large fireplace, and the vault.
" When you walk into this building you'll have a shocking view of a 30-foot ceiling, marble and crown moulding, with a glass ceiling that lets a ton of natural light through and this huge windows that let in natural light from the front," noted Mitchem.
The Oregon-based marijuana company purchased the building for $285,000 and will spend up to $1 million to renovate and restore it to its original grandeur, according to Mitchem.
"You step into the 1920s when you come into this building and you combine that with this modern-day upstart industry in cannabis and it is just this really cool dichotomy of two worlds coming together," said Mitchem.
Located on Main Street in downtown Springfield, the proposed cannabis store is just a block from Union Station. Across the street, the Paramount Theater is being renovated to become a performing arts center and an adjacent building redeveloped as a hotel.
With so much money tied up in the building, Mitchem said Diem Cannabis can’t afford to wait around. They’re counting on getting the greenlight to open in the first quarter of 2020.
"For us it is critical," said Mitchem, who listed the expenses currently being incurred including the mortgage with no revenue coming in.
" If we don't make it through this first round, we might have to move to a different city unfortunately," said Mitchem.
But competition is stiff.
Since the city made applications available for recreational marijuana businesses last month, there have been close to 50 requests for the necessary paperwork. Twenty-four prospective bidders, including Diem Cannabis, have signed up to make brief public presentations this week to an evaluation committee appointed by Mayor Domenic Sarno.
Final applications are due in City Hall on May 20th. In June, Sarno plans to select just four bidders to negotiate host community agreements.
Jeff Markham, of Springfield, toured the Hampden Bank building and listened with great interest to Diem Cannabis’ plans.
"The building is beautiful and their plans I think would be especially attractive to folks coming from out of state," said Markham. " It looks like it would a tourist attraction once it is completely renovated."
Diem Cannabis is scheduled to open a recreational marijuana store in Worcester in September, The company also plans a cultivation and product manufacturing facility in Orange.