Springfield developer David Loveall speaks at Along Came Trudy for Springfield Chamber of Commerce's Meet the Developers series on Nov. 8. Victoria Stephens/The Chronicle
SPRINGFIELD – When talking about his success as one of downtown Springfield's most prolific developers, David Loveall said that ”the most crucial element to doing anything” is to have ”skin in the game.”
He and his wife of 40 years, Nita, both grew up in the area and David worked at Gerlach's Photography as a teenager.
”Springfield was never expected to do anything,” he said.
In the Navy he worked as a photographer, a career that continued into his civilian life and provides skills he continues to draw on. He said that being a photographer helped him take things with no aesthetic appeal and make them look good.
As for becoming a developer, he said he ”kind of fell into it” 13 years ago with the purchase of the Washburne building, a commercial building with living space upstairs on the 300 block of Main Street. He had the idea to build a ”cool, New York-style loft” upstairs and cashed in his 401K to remodel it, so it was a personal risk.
”The point of no return came quickly,” he said, when six weeks into the project the Fire Marshal came by and required the addition of a sprinkler system throughout the old building.
That required Loveall to sell a very rare 1965 Sunbeam Tiger sports car he had spent 15 years to find and seven years restoring. His heart and soul was involved in downtown Springfield, he said: ”I have a stake on the block.”
Loveall, who is a pastor, spends one month each year in Africa, building churches in Uganda. He calls Africa his second home.
Once when he was there working, a Kenyan pastor asked him what it would take for him to come to Africa more often. Loveall said he'd like the owner to sell him the Econo Sales building to develop. ”Pastor David, we will pray that God will give you that building,” the pastor replied.
Although the building was not for sale, after returning from that trip he talked to the owner, and within a few months they had come to an agreement for its sale. He told business partner Bob Miller that he felt as though ”this building could be the tipping point for this block,” following the momentum started by Planktown moving in. And Miller wrote him a check to purchase it.
Interestingly, none of the buildings Loveall and his company, Masaka Properties has purchased has actually been on the market, except for the Washburne Building.
When Miller was visiting with Loveall on Main Street he noticed the Haven building and told Loveall they should buy it.
Loveall made some calls. The building was held in trust, and county records show that the attorney in charge of the trust was the same one who had helped the Lovealls with paperwork for an African child they had adopted. And what's more, the attorney had to sell the property within a year after the owner had died, and she had died the previous year.
Loveall and Miller made an offer and purchased it. Loveall said the apartments upstairs were in bad shape. The smell from one of them knocked his partner to his knees, where the tenant was keeping the rotting corpse of her dead dog. He said they hauled out tons of debris.
Block party in July
The Lovealls joined with about 25 other new businesses in throwing a block party in July, which drew more than 2,000 people to that half-block of Main Street.
”I heard this comment over and over again,” he said: ”'I don't know what is going on down here, but it just feels different.' And that to me, was worth everything.”
He said he knows for a fact that many churches over the last decade have been walking and praying over downtown Springfield, that something different would happen. ”I'm a man of faith,” he said. ”And I believe that God is doing big things in downtown Springfield.”
”There is a corner that we have been watching for a long time,” he said. It's the old McKenzie Mist property between NEDCO and the Washburne Café at the corner – a property that has sat idle, owned by Springfield Utility Board.
”What downtown Springfield needs right now is a boutique hotel,” he said. He hopes to build it there and to have it completed by the time of the World Athletics Championships, to be held in Eugene in 2021. He said that would be the next logical development for Springfield's downtown.
”There is no reason in my mind ... that Downtown Springfield could not be a great tourist attraction,” he said. ”Mostly, I'm here to make Springfield a destination spot.”