Business & Development, City & Government, Springfield

Passion builds for downtown redevelopment

Main Street Developers David Loveall and his wife Nita outside the strip of properties they own and renovated on the 300 block of Main Street in Downtown Springfield. VICTORIA STEPHENS/THE CHRONICLE

SPRINGFIELD – It is no secret that downtown Springfield is growing, with new businesses moving in on a regular basis. It is upscaling and quickly becoming a popular destination. Beautification projects include planters, murals, a series of new streetlights and a pilot food truck project in front of Springfield City Hall. The city council has also approved decorated crosswalks on both the north and south sides of Main Street at 4th Street in the future.
A diverse group of key players are behind this trend, according to Michael Eyster, chair of the Economic Development Committee for the Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
The city, Springfield Chamber of Commerce and organizations such as the Springfield Renaissance Development Corporation have played significant roles, he said.
”The city has for well over a decade committed itself to policies that would encourage and promote business development downtown,” he said.
The real driving force behind the renovations and resurgence in downtown, according to Eyster, has been a handful of private developers and entrepreneurs. These include Gabriel Hamel and Daniel Basaraba, who own and have renovated the Fry and Rankin Building, which housed the former Jim’s Landing bar. Now it is home to Simply Cycle, a transplant from Eugene, and high-end steakhouse George + Violet’s as well as a number of fully remodeled apartments upstairs.
The most prolific developer of the downtown area is David Loveall of Masaka Properties LLC, with his Los Angeles-based partner Robert Miller. Loveall and Miller had been friends for about 40 years and ”we both found ourselves semi-retired and needing something to do,” Loveall said.
The company owns and renovated most of the buildings on the north side of the 300 block of Main Street. It also purchased the large building on the south side of the street at the corner of 4th that was the former Haven boutique.
Masaka Properties derives its name from a small town in Uganda ”where we do ministry work,” he said. Loveall is a pastor with Threesixteen Ministries and he and his wife Nita have planted four churches in that area of Africa over the past seven years and adopted a son from that nation.
His holdings on Main Street began with the purchase of The Washburne Café property and the salon next door. ”Thirteen years ago, this was a property management office and we decided to build two large apartments upstairs,” he said.
That was ”during the heyday of all the bars and fighting and the ruckus that was going on down here,” he said. ”People thought that we were crazy, but we knew there was a possibility that if we could just get people to live down here we could change the community, the area.”
There were 34 apartments on that half block with most of them not rented and many of them under-utilized, he said: ”They were kind of slum-lorded. So we figured if we could change some of that we could change the block.”
About two and a half years ago they purchased the Econo Sales building and the one next to it, which is now the Cornbread Café. ”There were eight apartments there that had been boarded up for 30 years, that hadn’t been rented in 30 years,” he said. ”And the whole Cornbread building had been boarded up for about 25 years.”
They began to work on the commercial spaces downstairs once Econo Sales moved out and split that space in half, creating three large commercial spaces. Bartolotti’s Pizza Bistro built their space out first and Cornbread Café expanded from Eugene to another of those spaces.
Loveall said they really wanted to have a grocery store in that last vacant space to add to the viability and livability of the block and contribute to the community vibe. He said he waited a year, turning down about 20 offers from companies, including several offers by marijuana companies offering five times their asking price. Then the owner of Eugene’s Friendly Street Market approached them and recently opened the new Main Street Market.
There are seven apartments and an office upstairs, overlapping both upper floors of the buildings, which have gone from dilapidated to upscale with unique restoration of architectural details, wood floors, natural light and LED lighting. ”Everything is brand new. They are super nice,” he said. ”They were rented about a week after we finished them. In fact, they were renting as we were finishing them, which is what we suspected. People always want to live in downtown urban areas.”
Additionally, he and his partner purchased the building across the street between Main and South A on 4th Street that used to house the Haven boutique. They spent a year renovating the two commercial properties below and four apartments upstairs, creating two live/work spaces. Previously the apartments had been run down and used for low-income housing.
Loveall said that Jenna Fribley, an architect, whose office is next door at the Campfire Collaborative, has contributed a lot to the innovation projects with her enthusiasm and ideas. He also credits his partner Bob for being instrumental financially and having a good construction team. He said that the city has been good to them, helping with ideas, permits, and cost-saving programs.
Loveall said downtown is different, vibrant and fresh. There is a sense of community and entrepreneurship. His hope is that Downtown Springfield will become not only a regional destination, but also a national one.
There are still a lot of opportunities for growth and development in the downtown area. Cornucopia plans to expand there, opening a third location in the Cheesesteak NW location on the 500 block of Main Street in the fall.
And all this growth is not limited to only the downtown area, according to Max Molzahn of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce: ”It’s been exciting to experience.”



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