Developer seeks permits for housing project at historic Knox building in Springfield

The City Council has a public hearing scheduled Monday to consider special permits for a major housing project at the historic Knox automotive property in the Mason Square area. Gordon Pulsifer and his company, First Resource Development Corp., are seeking special permits for 96 housing units — 55 at the Knox building, 53 Wilbraham Road, and 41 in an adjacent building at 42 Waltham St. The online council meeting begins 6:30 p.m.

The Planning Department is recommending approval of both permits. Phase one of renovations involves the front portion of the Knox building, and the second phase involves the adjacent building, according to submitted plans.

The new development would include one- and two-bedroom apartments. Plans include on-site parking for both buildings. Pulsifer said in an email that the full details of the project would be provided on Monday.

The property in the Upper Hill neighborhood once housed the Knox automotive factory that operated in the early 1900s, officials said. Knox built cars, trucks, fire trucks and farm tractors from 1900-24 and shared talent and resources with the adjacent Indian Motocycle factory. The Knox factory was built in stages from 1900-10 and once featured its own internal railroad line.

The Knox building is “a very historic building and the staff is very pleased to see that it will be redeveloped rather than demolished,” the Planning Department report states.

“The petitioner also has a long history of very successful redevelopment projects within the City including the adjacent Indian Motocycle buildings,” the city report states. “The staff firmly believes that the redevelopment of these properties will have a beneficial impact on the surrounding properties as well as the entire Mason Square area as a whole.”

In January of 2020, the council voted to sell the city-owned Knox property and an adjacent lot to Pulsifer and his company for $11,000. The city took the property for nonpayment of taxes in 2009.

The second building on Waltham Avenue was owned privately and was slated for sale to the developers.