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Plaza Towers event center aims for spring launch

Property renovations far exceed original $7M budget, owner says

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Renovations at Plaza Towers and its adjacent shopping center that started in late 2020 continue as a new amenity – a 200-person event center – is expected to open this spring in the 55-year-old office building.

Marco Denis, president and owner of Springfield Property LLC, which owns Plaza Towers, said the size and scope of renovations and the addition of projects at the building, such as a first-floor restaurant and coffee shop, have contributed to swell the construction budget well beyond the original $7 million estimate.

“We go way over budget – way, way, way over budget,” he said. “I may just want to keep that private.”

Through his real estate company, Denis purchased the 10-story, 130,000-square-foot Plaza Towers, 35,000-square-foot Plaza Towers Center and Jimm’s Steakhouse and Pub building for $13.3 million in September 2020, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. He bought the properties, which sit on roughly 10 acres, from the family of Errett Sechler Jr., after the former longtime owner died in 2019.

Base Construction & Management LLC is general contractor for the Plaza Towers work, designed by architect Esterly, Schneider & Associates Inc. Renovation of common areas and corridors, including replacement of all 20 restrooms in the building, comprises much of the interior work that Denis said is completed. Exterior renovations included a facade upgrade and LED signage on the roof, along with ongoing third-floor construction of a wraparound patio, dubbed C’est La Vie, that connects to the Sunshine Event Center. The event space consists of roughly 5,000 square feet with another 2,300 square feet for the patio area that overlooks the Glenstone Avenue and Sunshine Street intersection.

“We believe that everything should be complete by March or April,” Denis said of the event space and patio work. “We have a lot of people right now who are on the list to be booked, but we want to make sure that we get closer before we give them an exact date when they can actually do it or not.”

Sunshine Event Center will have a capacity of 200 with seating for about 165, Denis said, adding the space has indoor and outdoor bars. He declined to disclose those who have expressed interest in booking the venue.

Down below
Two floors below, infill is yet to start on a restaurant that Denis said he hopes crews can begin tackling once the event center project is complete. While remaining tight-lipped on most of the planned eatery’s details, he said the 7,500-square-foot space is still to be designed, adding the heating, ventilation and air conditioning, electrical and plumbing work is complete.

“The idea we have is just a mix of American, French and Caribbean,” he said of the restaurant concept, pointing to inspiration from big cities such as Los Angeles and Miami.

The menu is still under development, and Denis is hopeful the restaurant can open before year’s end.

“I realize in the restaurant business the name matters,” he said, declining to reveal it. “We have a name, but I don’t know if I’m going to keep the name.”

While Denis previously did announce Smooth Coffee as the name for a yet-to-be-constructed coffee shop near the north-facing entrance to the building, he said that could still change. Construction likely will start in a couple months for the 2,600-square-foot shop, which he said includes about 1,000 square feet of outside seating. A July or August opening is estimated, he said, adding he’s yet to determine who will operate the shop.

An elevator also was added to the east side of the building to allow for direct access to the future restaurant and event center.

“There’s a private entrance up there,” Denis said. “That’s the reason we built the elevator is to take you there so the tenants will never get disturbed.”

Luxe Real Estate LLC is among the dozens of tenants in the building, which Denis said is at 96% occupancy – a jump from around the 70% level when construction work began in late 2020, according to past reporting. Brittany Haik opened the six-employee boutique real estate brokerage in 2022 and has had an office at Plaza Towers ever since. She said the future on-site amenities should be an attraction to tenants.

“It’d be nice to be able to meet someone and go have dinner or lunch together instead of just meeting at your office,” Haik said, adding she’s also excited for the event center’s pending opening. “Whether that be for client appreciation parties, get-togethers or just doing anything within the company, it’s going to be nice to have that space.”

As a Springfield native, Haik said she’s been aware of Plaza Towers most of her life. She said the renovations were needed to update the building’s look.

“They’ve done a really good job. The style that they’re going with is great,” she said. “They’ve been really good about if someone’s coming in to work on HVAC or water or if there’s anyone working outside, they send emails out every time. Thankfully, nothing has been really inconvenient at all.”

Vision matching
Although there is still considerable work to do before all its planned amenities launch, Denis said his vision of the building’s off-white and dark gray colors became a reality.

“The reason I chose those colors also is because I want people to be able to see the building a little bit farther away,” he said.

It’s a color scheme he matched with the adjacent Plaza Towers Center – save for one building.

“The only property that we did not paint is Jimm’s Steakhouse. He likes it the way it is, so I did not touch that,” he said, referring to restaurant owner Jimm Swafford.

Denis said he also was pleased with the work Pinnacle Sign Group Inc. did to install the $1.5 million LED lighted signage on top of the 10-story building. However, he learned after it was installed that the city allows only building tenants to advertise on it, which prevented him from providing it as a place for community announcements such as birthdays or anniversaries. Local lawyer and surgeon Dr. Brad Bradshaw, who is a longtime tenant, is leasing the billboard for undisclosed terms.

“It was a very difficult work to do. When you are at the bottom, you can’t see how big it is, but that sign is almost as long as the building,” he said.

Noting he’s spent a lot of money to get to this point, Denis said he is hopeful the renovation work won’t extend past this year. He’s learned construction delays are not an unusual part of the industry but admitted predicting dates for completion of various aspects for the yearslong project “has been a challenge.”

“It’s very frustrating for me because whenever I tell someone something, I want you to hold me accountable to it,” he said.

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