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Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016 12:18 am

Letters to the Editor 02/11/16

Springfield’s YWCA building by Springfield artist William Crook.


Mayor Langfelder should reconsider his quickly decided plans to demolish the old YWCA building downtown, and he should allow access to the building to all contractors interested in assessing its rehabilitation potential.

The YWCA building, located in the north mansion block which the city now owns, belongs to the citizens of Springfield. The redevelopment process for that block should include a paid and neutral assessment of the building’s potential before the city begins demolition.

The city should encourage developers to consider Y building preservation in their redevelopment plans for the mansion block, and inform them that federal tax credits are available for rehab of historically designated buildings in landmarked areas.

Only after completion and review of all the redevelopment ideas/proposals should the city consider demolishing the Y building if economic and other factors make rehabilitation unfeasible.

Joe McMenamin
Alderman, Ward 7

Some key points have been overlooked concerning the YWCA building.

  • The building is a designated city landmark, by city council ordinance.

  • It is a contributing structure within the recently expanded Central Springfield Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Among its other attributes, it was designed by George Helmle, considered one of the most prominent architects in Springfield history.

  • A number of developers had asked the previous city administration to inspect the building and to submit bids for redevelopment, including one who volunteered to repair the roof, only to be rejected.
  • No qualified, independent source without ties to the city has been requested to determine whether the building is structurally sound and safe.

  • A recent city council vote to demolish the century-old structure was taken without sufficient, if any, notice to the Springfield Historic Sites Commission nor to the public, thereby foreclosing public comment.

  • As a certified local government under federal preservation law, the city is eligible for a 30-percent through 70-percent rehabilitation grant, and the city’s 30 percent can be in-kind (i.e., non-cash); a developer also would be entitled to a federal income tax credit of 20 percent of the cost of rehabilitation and a waiver of city sales tax for materials. Moneys projected to pay for demolition could be used to stabilize the building.

After the council vote to demolish following the city’s declaration that the building was unsafe, the city administration is to be praised for allowing one developer to inspect the building and perhaps submit a bid for redevelopment. This decision, however, may be too little and very late. Instead, the city should reasonably proceed to obtain as many unbiased, independent responses as possible to statewide if not national requests for proposals (RFPs) for assessments of soundness and safety, and, subsequently, for rehabilitation.

Since the Y is in a TIF district, by law demolition must be voted on by the Historic Sites Commission. Although a vote against demolition is not binding on the council, it could present the council with a more balanced view of the situation. Originally scheduled for Feb. 15, the commission vote has been postponed indefinitely, apparently until the city decides whether to proceed with demolition.

In light of the foregoing, the council is urged to revisit this matter following a well-publicized public hearing.

Jerry Jacobson
Ad Hoc Committee to Save the Y


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