Massive Fire Destroys Massachusetts Complex

EAST LONGMEADOW - A massive fire today destroyed the 130-unit Bluebird Estates Retirement Living complex which was under construction on Parker Street.

An East Longmeadow firefighter was injured while fighting the blaze, reported just after midnight, firefighter Christopher J. Beecher said.

The $12 million to $14 million Parker Street complex, expected to open early next year, was fully involved by the time Springfield firefighters responded to a call for mutual aid at 12:20 p.m. Firefighters remain on the scene. Because of the fire, a traffic advisory has also been issued. Parker Street in East Longmeadow from Porter Road to Allen Street is closed until further notice, East Longmeadow police said.

The facility was billed as a new retirement community located on more than 40 acres at the former Bluebird Acres orchard on Parker Street, not far from the Springfield line.

Bluebird Estates was to house 130 apartments for people over 55 with monthly rents ranging from $1,795 to $3,595.

It was under the management of Holiday Retirement Corp., based in Salem, Ore.

Judy J. Lema, a representative of Holiday Retirement, said earlier this week, "This is an independent living facility. Many older seniors who can still take care of themselves do not want the hassle of owning a home. This is a great alternative."

The facility was built to offer studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.

Holiday Retirement Corp. and its affiliate Colson & Colson Construction Co., also of Salem, Ore., began looking at the agricultural land about four years ago.

In May 2004, the company signed a $1.35 million purchase and sale agreement with owner Eugene S. Wiezbicki for 41 acres on the west side of Parker Street, part of the former Bluebird Acres, an orchard and farm store which had operated in town for more than 50 years. On the 100-acre farm were grown blueberries, apples and other fruits, and vegetables including tomatoes, zucchini and peppers. In 2003, the farm closed and owners began selling parcels of the land.

After being approved by the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Zoning Board, the project began in November 2006 and was expected to open early next year. Applications for the apartments had already been accepted.