SHIRLEY — Phoenix is a word to describe something that has risen from the ashes. The 325,000-square-foot commercial building on Shaker Road fits that definition and is thus known as the Phoenix Park. The sprawling commercial center, along with Pepperell Place, at 20 Mill St. in Pepperell, are two of the newest properties of LexVest Group, a Lexington-based development company.
Both buildings are refurbished mill and manufacturing structures that have been resurrected due in part to grants from Mass Development.
By funding through low-interest loans and grants, Mass Development, in support of projects like Pepperell Place and Phoenix Park, helps communities like Shirley and Pepperell generate tax revenue, energize commerce and boost employment. Partnering with motivated town officials and experienced construction financiers like Mass Development, LexVest is able to create usable space from time-worn cast-offs.
Roy Angel, Mass Development’s vice president and commercial loan officer, described the projects as a partnership.
“It represented an opportunity to bring back a property that was totally under-utilized,” he said of the loans to LexVest in 2002 for the rebuilding of Phoenix Park. “It was complementary to what we were trying to do at Devens.” Shirley was one the towns affected by the closure of Fort Devens. “By creating jobs in Shirley, we helped revitalize the town’s economy.”
Given that record, Mass Development provided loans for Pepperell place of $2.25 million in 2015 and $1.45 million in 2016.
Eric Shaipro, CEO of LexVest, and a staff of 10 do most of the construction, all maintenance, sales and promotions for the company’s real estate holdings. LexVest’s specialty is the purchasing of unused or under-used industrial buildings, then converting them into modern spaces for commercial, manufacturing, clinical, warehouse, office or industrial use.
“We shine up a sneaker,” said Chip Detwiller, Lexvest director of leasing, “We don’t construct buildings, we reuse them.”
The spaces inside the properties are customized. Each lease is individually brokered and negotiated so there is no “flat rate.” Leased units can be as large as CellTreat’s 30,000 square feet (or larger if needed). They can also be as small as Angelina Sutherland’s 600-square-foot studio.
Sutherland creates personalized vinyl decals. Her small business, East Coast Vinyl Decals, outgrew her home.
“I love the space,” she said. “I love that it’s in town and I really like being around other businesses.”
Detwiller said micro-communities develop in the buildings, that leads to local commerce.
Employees may use the in-house gymnasiums break rooms and a smattering of private and common-area bathrooms. The architecture and structural components remain true the original placements, and the old beams and posts have been cleaned up and are left to expose the 20-foot ceilings.
“They really do an amazing job trying to connect the businesses together,” said Nashoba Valley Camber of Commerce President Melissa Fetterhoff.
The chamber occupies a corner office in Phoenix Park.
“We moved here from Devens — which we loved — about three years ago and it was a great decision. We interact almost daily with small business owners, about half of them are chamber members.
“They (Lexvest) really make it an easy place for businesses to operate and the facilities are very employee-friendly. It’s great to see businesses sharing resources and using each other’s products and services,” said Fetterhoff.
PHOENIX PARK opened in 2009, is, at 340,000 square feet, the largest building in Shirley, and home to 70 businesses, including LexVest’s leasing office. About 250 to 300 people work there each day.
PEPPERELL PLACE is about 60 percent occupied with a new, “very large” tenant now in negotiations for warehouse space. Its 190,000 square feet make it the largest structure in Pepperell and is defined by not only the broad mix of companies inside but by the noticeable mix of old construction and new technology.