Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 12:06 am
Two important but contradictory votes took place on Tuesday, leaving the fate of the historic YWCA building unclear. First, the Springfield Historic Sites Commission voted 7-1 to deny a request by the city to allow demolition of the YWCA. The city, which owns the building, knew it couldn’t satisfy strict preservation criteria in the city code, so it asked instead for an “economic hardship” exception. The commission denied the request, with several members saying they didn’t have enough financial information to determine whether the city really faces an economic hardship with regard to the YWCA. A few hours after that vote, the Springfield City Council approved 8-2 a contract for $398,000 with Chicago-based Brandenburg Industrial Services to demolish the YWCA. Why would the council approve the demolition contract after the Historic Sites Commission refused to approve the demolition itself? The answer is that the commission’s decision isn’t final; the city can appeal its denial to the city council. That means the city council’s vote to approve the contract may foreshadow the council overriding the commission. The opponents of demolishing the YWCA building aren’t admitting defeat, though, and it’s clear this battle isn’t over.