A 40 acre site in a gateway city, renowned for its manufacturing history, is now the new North American hub of China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC), one of the largest rail car builders in the world. With 175,000 employees and annual revenues of $32 billion (2013 report), CRRC bought this shovel ready site in Springfield from Pinnacle in April for $12 million to house a 201,000 s/f plant to build 284 new red and orange line MBTA train cars. The selection of this site was the culmination of years of work between CRRC and NAI Hunneman.
In 2010 through his working relationship with MassEcon Michael DiGiano, executive vice president, NAI Hunneman began working with CRRC (then CNR) for an initial site selection for the project. While Mike and his team collected data on more than 50 potential sites, there were specific critical criteria that needed to be met to accommodate such a large and specialized project. When the RFP for the MBTA project was formally issued in 2013, CRRC and NAI Hunneman were already focused on Western Mass. based on the initial search and work completed in 2010. They were drawn to Western Mass. because of the manufacturing labor force, and the opportunities for large rail served industrial sites.
Specifically, what they needed was a site that was rail accessible for the train cars, was 40-50 acres and had a lot of power. They also needed a site that was level, clear and ready to go. Despite looking at more than 50 sites, this list was quickly cut down to sites in Springfield, Chicopee and Westfield based on the project’s needs.
Ultimately, 655 Page Blvd. was chosen in a gateway city – Springfield – a city historically known for manufacturing. In addition to having rail access, the 40 acre site in Springfield had an Eversource substation with 6,000 kva of power – completely ready to go to handle such a large job. An old Westinghouse office building that was built in 1911 – the only surviving building of the seven that Westinghouse constructed on the site – will be converted to CRRC’s office. At a total space of 49,000 s/f, 32,000 s/f will be used for their office, and the rest will be used for storage.
Plaza Construction, based in New York is set to begin construction on the manufacturing plant in the spring of 2016 with completion in the fall of 2017. Building and design construction on the office space will begin this fall and should be complete by spring of 2016. The construction project itself will create 100 jobs with total project costs estimated at $95 million. Production of the rail cars will begin in the spring of 2018 with delivery of the first car in January 2019. It will create about 150 full time manufacturing jobs, and CRRC plans to make the Springfield plant their North American headquarters, bidding for other U.S. railway contracts.
Over these past five years, Mike has worked closely with CRRC through the whole process. From site selection to offering a “concierge” service where NAI Hunneman provided them with temporary office space, assistance with temporary housing, helped with vehicle arrangements, helped them secure other service providers to set up their office and more. NAI Hunneman also represented them to get 7,200 s/f of office space at 100 Summer St. in Boston.
This was more than a “real estate” business partnership. This was an example of working together to help bring in an international company and literally make them feel at home.
This post also appeared on NEREJ which you can view here.
David Slye is president and CEO, NAI Hunneman, Boston, Mass