| Chris Maza
SPRINGFIELD – Work on a proposed apartment complex in the city’s Pine Point neighborhood remains at a standstill.
The property at 461 Boston Road, the former site of Russell’s Restaurant, remains surrounded by a temporary gate with a large mound of dirt and debris nearly a year after the property owner’s originally anticipated completion date.
Nick Graham, a Western Massachusetts native now operating Innovative Housing Group out of Houston, TX, has been working on developing the land with 14 townhouse-style apartment units since the spring of 2015, but says conversations with the Water and Sewer Commission remain at an impasse. In a brief email response to inquiries made by Reminder Publications, Graham said, “[The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission] has not approved my application despite nine submissions and tens of thousands of dollars to three different engineers. There is no update.”
Graham indicated in March the Department of Public Works approved his plan, but Water and Sewer had not. He submitted his initial plan on Feb. 25, 2015.
Joyce Mulvaney, public communications manager for the Water and Sewer Commission, explained the commission reviews all applications to ensure design and construction meet the city’s rules and regulations, guidelines, policies, and material specifications.
“This process is in place to ensure the design meets Commission requirements, which are ultimately in place to protect the integrity of the water and sewer systems for the safety and protection of all our customers,” she said.
Mulvaney added it is normal operating procedure for the commission to send comments requesting amendments to incomplete, inaccurate, and non-conforming submissions and the process often requires several iterations before a final design is approved.
The most recent comments for this project were sent to Graham’s engineer on June 7.
“Our engineer anticipates approval of the design once it is revised to incorporate the comments sent on June 7,” Mulvaney said.
According to documentation from the city’s Office of Planning and Development, a conditional approval of Graham’s site plan was approved on July 8, 2015 after two public hearings in April and June of that year. The approval is good for two years, meaning Graham must file a building application by July 8, 2017.
In the meantime, residents and city officials have raised concerns about the condition and safety of the property.
Ward 5 City Councilor Marcus Williams, who recently hosted a press event in front of the property alongside Councilor Bud Williams to discuss illegal dumping in the city, said he has not been able to reach Graham to discuss the project.
“People have complained that he isn’t the easiest to get a hold of and I would voice the same concern,” Williams said. “I plan to follow up with the city in determining how to proceed with the matter. This land should not be deadlocked for a developer who has not been respondent to the community it wishes to be in. A hard timeline is needed for his plans and because there’s been minimal progress, I am anxious to hear from him.”
Graham did not respond to a request for comment on the condition of the property as of press time.
He also did not respond to a follow-up asking whether he planned to continue to pursue the project.
While a Facebook page for the apartments remains, it has not been updated since May 2015. Visiting the website for the Innovative Housing Group, Graham’s limited liability corporation (LLC) tied to the project, redirects you to the website of The Student Rental, a separate LLC previously known as 151 Breckwood, LLC, and LAG Capital, LLC.
Nick and Kent Graham act as co-managers of this The Student Rental as well as 11RRE, LLC, according to filings made to the Secretary of State’s office.
The Springfield Assessor’s Office’s tax payment database indicates Nick Graham is involved with several properties in the city in addition to the land on Boston Road.
Graham owns 215 Breckwood Blvd. in his own name and 11RRE, LLC, owns 10 parcels in the Sixteen Acres, Pine Point and Old Hill neighborhoods. The Student Rental does not own any parcels according to the database, and the company’s website does not list its properties. However, photos of dwellings posted on the Student Rental’s Facebook page have captions indicating they are properties on Pheland Avenue and Warrenton, Gresham and King streets currently owned by 11RRE.
The database also shows LAG Capital as the owner of properties on Breckwood Boulevard, Keddy Street, and Embury Street, which are also featured on The Student Rental’s Facebook page.