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Project to build apartments in historic Springfield building gets OK from City Council

John Phelon
Wikimedia Commons
The Springfield City Council voted to grant a special permit to a developer to build 41 apartments in this former office building at 195 State Street. The building is the National Register of Historic Places.

Second project on lower State Street also approved

Plans are advancing to build more housing in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. WAMC’s

The Springfield City Council voted Monday night to approve special permits to redevelop two long-vacant buildings on State Street into apartment complexes that together will have nearly 100 new apartments for rent at prices that are considered affordable for people with low-incomes.

“I think it is going to be incredible to see these two long-vacant buildings filled with individuals and families contributing to our downtown, making it a vibrant walkable downtown and really bringing these buildings back to life,” said City Councilor Jesse Lederman.

He said the new apartments will be a welcome addition in a city that needs more places for people to live.

“We often hear about the housing crisis in the context of the greater Boston area, but we know the data shows we are tens of thousands of units short of housing in Springfield and the Pioneer Valley and that is contributing to a very low vacancy rate and that is contributing to rising rents,” Lederman said.

First Resource Development Company has submitted plans to redevelop the buildings at 195 State Street and 310 State Street at a total projected cost of $46 million.

The four-story building at 195 State is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1905, it was an insurance company headquarters until the 1960s and later became the central administration office for the Springfield Public Schools. It has been vacant for more than a decade.

First Resource proposes to gut the building and create 41 apartments.

Up the street at 310 State, a former office building constructed in 1924, the company plans to build 52 apartments.

At earlier hearings, Councilors voiced concerns about pedestrian safety. The stretch of lower State Street has seen fatalities and close calls in recent years.

First Resource President Gordon Pulsifer endorsed a plan by the city’s Department of Public Works to force cars to slow down by narrowing the street, putting in a raised crosswalk, and a pedestrian-activated traffic signal.

“This reduction of lanes will go a long way to slowing and calming traffic coming down that hill and the problem is the hill – cars just go fast,” said Pulsifer.

Councilor Malo Brown praised First Resource’s track record in Springfield which includes redeveloping former industrial buildings.

“They were dangerous,” Brown said. “We had a lot of unsafe areas near those blighted properties.”

The company owns about 80 buildings and manages roughly 1,500 apartments in Springfield.

The two projects proposed on State Street drew no objections from abutting property owners. The plans were endorsed by the Armory Quadrangle Civic Association, which is the neighborhood council for the city’s Metro Center.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.