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Developers energized by bare ground, vacancies

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Old things are becoming new, as developers plan several major projects for downtown Springfield in 2018. The big moves are doubling the rooms of Hotel Vandivort and a new purpose for Park Central Square’s longest-running vacancy.

More Vandivort
The owners of Hotel Vandivort LLC plan to build a second boutique hotel by the same name and adjacent to the first.

Co-owner John McQueary said construction could begin as early as spring on a 42,000-square-foot, five-story building at the corner of McDaniel Street and Robberson Avenue. The stand-alone building would replace the McQuearys’ recently resurfaced parking lot currently used by Hotel Vandivort guests.

Brothers John and Billy McQueary opened the 44,000-square-foot hotel in 2015, after spending $13 million remodeling the four-story property at 305 E. Walnut St. It formerly was home to a stage theater and a Masonic temple.

“We certainly saw more demand faster than we expected,” John McQueary said, declining to disclose annual room bookings.

The second building would add 48 rooms to its current slate of 50, as well as a rooftop bar and patio dubbed The Vantage.

McQueary declined to disclose the planned investment for the latest project, which is expected to take about a year to complete. Bates & Associates Inc. is the architect for the project, and McQueary said bids for a contractor will soon be accepted.

As construction begins, he said Hotel Vandivort would partner with downtown parking lot and garage owners to park its guests’ vehicles through valet parking.

New birth for Newberry
Plans for rebirth at one of downtown’s longest-running vacancies should soon be announced. A total remodel is in the works for The Newberry building at 132 Park Central Square, which has sat mostly empty since Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris bought it in 1986.

“It’s the last major building within the Park Central Square mall that hasn’t been renovated recently,” said Rusty Worley, executive director of the Downtown Springfield Association. “It’s a very strategic property for us. It anchors the southwest corner of the square.”

Darren Smith, a downtown property owner and businessman, said an undisclosed group of investors approached Morris in October 2016 to purchase the property, and they’re now finalizing the development strategy. Though not an owner, Smith said he was brought on to advise the investors.

“It’ll be completely gutted and rebuilt,” he said, noting after architectural plans are finalized, details should be announced within two months.

Smith, who owns the Veridian building and events center around the corner on South Avenue, said the developers plan to operate a business in the space, as opposed to remodeling the building and reselling it.

Morris purchased The Newberry more than 30 years ago, said Greene County Recorder Cheryl Dawson-Spaulding, following a foreclosure by the U.S. Small Business Administration the previous year. It was owned by Midwest Auto Parts Distributing Inc.

The 42,000-square-foot, two-story Newberry has been home to periodic fundraisers over the years, Smith said, and it was twice rented by the U.S. Census Bureau as a temporary office.

It got its name after of the J.J. Newberry department store that once operated there.

Downtown advocate Worley said the move continues progress recently made downtown, namely the Heer’s and Woolworth buildings.

“Active uses and quality tenants in those buildings have really activated the west side of the square,” he said. “Having office workers there during the day and having residents in the Heer’s building at night brings a whole vitality to the area.”

Venue options
Another downtown hotspot is busting at the seams. Smith’s Veridian Events LLC plans to expand the 309 South Ave. venue operations after purchasing an adjacent building.

“The Veridian has been in business for eight years now, and we’ve always been looking to expand,” Smith said.

Through SIAV LLC, Smith plans to spend $2 million renovating the vacant 214 W. McDaniel St. building, which touches the north side of The Veridian with most of its back wall. Plans call for a banquet hall, rooftop bar, a basement “speakeasy” and five overnight rooms for event guests, he said.

The 8,000-square-foot, two-story building – currently painted blue and black – sits between the Hearts of Fire Tattoo parlor and Traders Printing Co.

The smaller building, Smith said, would allow The Veridian to book parties with as few as 50 people, unlike the South Avenue venue, which can host 300 people on the second floor and 150 on the first floor.

“We were losing a lot of people because our banquet hall is so big,” he said.

Pending city building permit reviews, Smith said renovation work on McDaniel should begin in the first quarter and wrap up by year’s end. It formerly housed a bar known as The Abyss, as well as an art gallery.

Another downtown venue is under new ownership.

After reopening Regency Live in 2015, owner Gary Thomas sold the business to out-of-state concert promoters who plan to change the name next month.

Utah husband-and-wife team Gabe and Angela Elstein bought the assets in September 2017 for undisclosed terms. Gabe Elstein said Thomas continues to own the building, and the couple signed a five-year lease with the option to purchase the 307 Park Central East building.

Elstein said the space, which is capable of holding 850 people, will be rebranded in February as The Complex-Springfield.

The Elsteins run a collection of four music venues under one roof in Salt Lake City called The Complex. They also promote concerts in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Memphis, Tennessee, as well as Portland and Eugene, Oregon.

“We’re going to add a balcony up top,” he said. “There has always been a balcony, but it was enclosed with glass. We’re knocking that out and putting in a railing, so it can be a mezzanine. We’re upgrading the sound and lighting equipment, as well – and adding some acoustical treatment.”


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