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Mason Square Fire Station to be revitalized

By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD — After an almost three-year delay, Vince Maniaci, president of American International College, announced on Jan. 8 that the college has found a development partner to transform the long vacant Mason Square Fire Station into usable space and to renovate the apartments in the former Indian Motocycle A building.

In May 2010, Maniaci was among the officials who announced that AIC was the preferred developer for the property. At that time, Maniaci said the college planned to put the college's radio station in the fire station and feature an internet café. Maniaci admitted then the college did not yet have access to the funding necessary for the rehabilitation.

Now, working with First Resource Development Corp., the partners anticipate that groundbreaking is about a year and half away with another year for the construction.

Gordon Pulsifer, president of First Resource, explained the second and third floor of the fire station would be converted into apartments with the ground floor allocated to commercial space. Pulsifer said that about 90 units of housing — currently there are 139 apartments — would be market rate while the rest would be affordable.

Pulsifer explained there is little funding available for a commercial redevelopment, but there are historic tax credits for the rehabilitation of historic properties into housing. The project is budgeted at $25 million and Pulisfer said the National Parks Service and the Massachusetts Historic Commission must approve the plans to obtain the tax credits.

The actions necessary for city approval will be before the City Council, he added.

First Resource has much experience in the city with renovating older housing stock and then managing them. The company is responsible for Worthington Commons, a complex of 12 apartment buildings at the intersection of Worthington and Federal streets and is currently completing a project in the Hollywood section of the South End neighborhood.

Pulsifer said there would be 15 to 20 additional apartments created in the construction and he did not anticipate that would a negative impact on the parking space that is available now. What would make parking an issue is if and when First Resource developed the B building for the former factory.

There are no plans for the B building at this time.

The Fire Station was built in 1885 and The Indian Motocycle building was in use for 50 years until 1953, when the company stopped manufacturing, Kevin Kennedy, the city's chief development officer said. The renovation is "is something that will finish State Street in so many ways."

Kennedy was referring to the $22 million project that improved the State Street corridor. Developments in that corridor have included a new Federal Court House and the re-use of the former Technical High School site for a new state data center, which is nearly complete.

Although Kennedy acknowledged there are other projects that need to be addressed — such as the creation of a supermarket — he said, "This is the last piece of the puzzle."

Kennedy praised the support of the State Street Alliance in working with private and public entities for the redevelopment of the corridor.