A ceremony Monday marked the start of construction work to restore a landmark building in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and other participants in the ceremony spoke on the sidewalk under the marquee of the Paramount Theater as cars and trucks passed in front on North Main Street and trains moved in and out of nearby Union Station.
"We're very bullish on this part of the city, and we are very bullish on this project in particular," said Baker.
The $40 million project will transform the Paramount, which opened in 1926 as a vaudeville theater into a performing arts center. The adjoining Massasoit building, which was constructed before the Civil War, will be turned into an 85-room boutique hotel.
The property was purchased in 2011 by the New England Farm Workers Council. Herbie Flores, the CEO of the nonprofit, said the construction schedule calls for the hotel to open in December 2020 with the theater being ready for use a year later.
" I know people say ' you've been talking about it ( for a long time)', but it is not easy to put together $30-$40 million for a downtown project," said Flores.
Funding for the project comes from public and private sources, according to Flores. It includes $3.6 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a $2.5 million economic development grant from the state.
More than half the financing is from investors who will take advantage of state and federal tax breaks.
" But for the use of historic tax credits this initiative would not get underway," declared Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal, who chairs the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
He said the project will bring an important piece of Springfield history back to life.
Main Street Hospitality will run the new Massasoit House Hotel. The company owns, or manages, a number of historic properties including the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. CEO Sarah Eustis said she had been on the lookout for a project in Springfield for a couple of years.
"We are so pleased and proud to be part of this in Springfield," said Eustis.
Several representatives of local labor unions attended Monday’s ceremony. The project will employ more than 100 unionized construction workers.
When completed, the new hotel and performing arts center is expected to have a total workforce of 73 people, according to an official with the farm workers council.