Historic Designation Sought For Building Where Most Sewing Needles Were Produced
The city of Springfield, Massachusetts is considering giving historic protection to a long-vacant industrial building that the current owner wants to tear down.
The four-story white building adjacent to East Columbus Avenue and Interstate 91 in the city’s North End known for decades as the Kittredge building was home to the National Needle Company. Founded in the late 1800s, it was once the largest maker of sewing needles in the world.
"We believe it is an historical building and it has historic significance," said Vincent Walsh, Chairman of the Springfield Historical Commission. He said the site should be designated as a single-building local historic district.
Walsh said it is not just the historic significance but "the detail and construction of the building" that makes it worthy of becoming a local historic district.
The historic district requires approval by the City Council.
The four-story building is part of a block long manufacturing and warehouse complex. The other attached one-story and two-story buildings would not be part of the proposed historic district.
Hansraj Gada, who owns the property, sought a zoning change from the city in 2016, saying he planned to build a hotel and apartment tower. He applied for a demolition permit last November, but it was denied under a city ordinance that blocks the demolition of any building over 100-years-old for nine months.
Addressing a meeting of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee, which was held remotely, Gada said he still hopes to build apartments on the site but an historic designation could stand in the way.
"If you create an historical district and I need to fix that biulding, I am going to spend a lot of money on that building and it is not going to be worth it for me," said Gada.
The city administration has not taken a position on the historic district designation, said Phil Dromey, the city’s deputy director of planning.
"It is an historic asset and we do try to save what we can, but we certainly don't want this to become a building that remains vacant due to the fact that it is an historic property. That doesn't servc anybody's purposes," said Dromey.
Noting that several historic buildings in Springfield have been redeveloped with the help of tax credits, City Councilor Adam Gomez, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, said he will recommend the full council vote to approve creating what would be known as the “National Needle Building Local Historic District.”
"I want to be on the record that I am supporting the historic district at this time," said Gomez.
Of the 16 local historic districts in Springfield, eight are single buildings.