Car magnate Herb Chambers intends to purchase the old Ch. 56 property on Morrissey Boulevard and convert it into a pre-owned BMW dealership and repair center.
Chambers, a Dorchester native whose automotive empire now includes 50 dealerships and franchises throughout New England, says he is in the process of buying the property at 75 Morrissey Blvd. from WHDH-TV, which now controls the site. The property is valued at $4.5 million by the city of Boston, but the prospective purchase price has not been disclosed.
Chambers told the Reporter this week that he intends to sell certified, pre-owned BMW cars on the site. The business will also service vehicles that Chambers sells in Dorchester and at his existing BMW dealership on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
“I happen to love this location; it’s just terrific,” Chambers said. “It’s got great exposure to the Expressway. I think it’s going to be a very successful spot for us.”
Chambers added that he intends to begin a major renovation of the existing building on the site once he closes on the deal.
“We’re going to work with that building. It has the proper ceiling heights we need, which is important because we’ll be putting cars up on lifts inside,” he said. “We’ll use the basement by putting a ramp down into it for storage. We shouldn’t have to change the footprint at all, but we will re-skin it and give it a glass and white appearance.”
Chambers expects to hire 30-40 people to staff the dealership and repair center, which will likely store and service up to 100 cars at any one time.
“It will be a certified pre-owned center, not new BMWs. But these are not used cars. In addition to that, it’s going to be an expansion of our parts and service operation, which we do now on Commonwealth Avenue. But we’ve just outgrown that place.”
Chambers was not certain when the deal will close, but he said that the company is prepared to move quickly once the transaction is completed. “We have to go through a couple of boards. We met with Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association and I think that went well. Everyone we’ve spoken to is very supportive of us doing this thing.”
“The good news is that car centers are actually low traffic generators,” Chambers added. “People come in the morning and drop their vehicles off. It’s hopefully in the range of 20-25 people a day with service.” He said he expects that the business will be open from 7 a.m.- 9 p.m. daily.
Although this will be the automotive mogul’s first business operation in Dorchester, he is quite familiar with the location itself. Born and raised in St. Peter’s parish, Chambers attended the Mather School and the Cleveland School.
And an important element of his education in the automotive industry actually took place at 75 Morrissey Boulevard: “I learned how to drive when I was 15 years old in that parking lot,” Chambers said. “It used to be a First National [supermarket] and that’s how you learned how to drive back then.”
The Morrissey Boulevard site has been empty since 2007 when WLVI-TV Ch. 56 was absorbed by WHDH-TV in an acquisition worth some $113 million.