SPRINGFIELD -- Demolition workers began razing the former Peter Pan Bus Terminal on Monday, making way for a new 33,000-square-foot Way Finders housing center and corporate offices.
Once open in early 2020, the housing center will allow Way Finders (formerly HAP Housing) to provide housing assistance, financial literacy education, job search help, vocational education and first-time home buyer programs to more people. It expects to boost the number of families through its doors from about 20,000 a year now to 30,000 a year or more.
"This is an important project," said Peter Gagliardi, Way Finders president and CEO. "This will make us so much more accessible via public transportation to our urban-based clients and by car to those who drive to us. We'll have parking. We'll be right off the highway, and it's in a visible location."
It was a bittersweet day for Peter Pan Chairman Peter A. Picknelly. The family-run bus company opened the terminal in 1969, and it was the first intermodal terminal bring together multiple bus lines, city transit and taxi services all in one location. Over its 49 years of service, more than 20 million intercity bus passengers were welcomed to Springfield through its doors, making the Peter Pan terminal the most visited building in the Pioneer Valley.
"This was the first building my dad ever built," Picknelly said. "I feel sad for Peter Pan, but very happy for my friend Peter (Gagliardi). I know the new building will serve Way Finders as well as the old building served Peter Pan."
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said that as much as Peter Pan is about moving people from place to place, Way Finders is about moving folks forward in life toward stable housing and eventually home ownership.
Gagliardi said the cost of the project is now about $16 million, including $9 million in construction and the $2.75 million Way Finders paid Peter Pan for the building in December 2017. He said Way Finders plans to borrow about $8 million through a bond guaranteed by MassDevelopment. The other half will come from funds Way Finders either has in hand or will raise, including a $2 million grant from the state, proceeds from the sale of its old building and $4 million from the federal New Markets Tax Credit program.
Gagliardi said the new Way Finders building is part of a chain reaction of development in the city.
Way Finders, founded in 1972, sold its current headquarters at 322 Main St. to Balise Motor Sales for $1 million in 2017. Way Finders has been renting the space since. When it moves out, Way Finders will clear the way for Balise, which has amassed many properties in the South End over the past three years or so, to develop the neighborhood, Gagliardi said.
Peter Pan was able to sell the terminal after it moved its bus operations and offices into Union Station following the $103 million rehab there.
"This is all building off the development of Union Station," Gagliardi said. "I know there are a number of underutilized buildings in the neighborhood."
That would include the former welfare office at 95 Liberty St., just a block away, which is being renovated and offered as office space.
"And people have been talking about the former Kittredge Building (at Liberty Street and East Columbus Avenue) for years," Gagliardi said. "Maybe this will help something to happen."