Downtown Springfield landmark nearly full after historic designation

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun has reported extensively on the debate about historic preservation and downtown buildings, including recent stories about the Warder Library landmarks nomination and the possible demolition of the Ferncliff Cemetery superintendent’s house.

The first building placed on the local historic landmarks list in nearly 30 years is now nearly full with five tenants, a little more than a year after it faced possible demolition.

The Springfield Landmarks Commission had discussed earlier this year designating several other buildings as landmarks, but those discussions have been largely on hold in recent months.

The discussions will likely continue next year, said Stephen Thompson, the city’s planning, zoning and code administrator.

“Nothing’s really come up at all about it,” Thompson said.

In October of 2014, rumors spread about the possible demolition of the former Springfield News-Sun building, 202 N. Limestone St. That led a group of residents to begin a “Save our News-Sun” Facebook page.

But the building’s owner, Jim Lagos, decided instead to place the original portion of the property on the local historic register, which was approved by city commissioners last December. It was the first landmark added to the registry since 1986.

Since that time, Lagos has spent “hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars” on upgrades, he said, including changes to the heating system.

Empty a year ago, the site now has five tenants:

• The Gorman, Veskauf, Henson and Wineberg law office, which moved from the 4 W. Main St. building.

• Springfield Health and Fitness Center and Far North Computers, both of which moved from the Lagos-owned Bushnell Building.

• Imperial Express Trucking Co., which moved from 2525 N. Limestone St. in Moorefield Twp.

• LWS Accounting Services will move into space on the second floor this week. The accounting firm’s office was previously at 1146 E. Home Road.

The renovation was difficult, Lagos said, but it’s been worth it.

“It’s a good, historic building,” he said. “We’re glad to be giving it renewed life, rebirth basically. Some of the businesses were downtown and they stayed downtown, while some of the business came downtown. It’s a good mix of people. There’s good synergy. They’re all first-class businesses.”

The building has some space available on both the second- and third-floors. Lagos also has plenty of space available at 1 S. Limestone St., which is where the News-Sun leases space for its newsroom and advertising staff.

“We’re going all over the country looking for somebody to bring some jobs to downtown Springfield,” he said.

The building is important for the community and a good example of adaptive re-use in Springfield, said Horton Hobbs, vice president for economic development for the Chamber of Greater Springfield. Businesses that had already maxed out space at other properties, such as Springfield Health and Fitness, expanded into a larger space at the former News-Sun building.

“The creativeness of reusing that space is great,” Hobbs said. “Every building is unique and every situation is different. You only hope you can accommodate growth for businesses. It’s a positive thing for the community.”

Springfield Health and Fitness nearly tripled its space in the expansion, owner Pat Frock said. The 35,000-square-foot gym opened on Nov. 30 in the former press room and basement. During the gym’s renovation, construction crews left as much of the pipes as possible from the original building.

The business had no desire to leave downtown, she said, but needed more space,

“The members love it,” Frock said. “Everybody that comes in here has just been blown away by the factory feel of it. We tried to keep it as industrial as we could.”

The Springfield Register of Historic Properties has seven historic sites and two districts listed. Three other structures were originally listed, but have since been demolished: Clark County Veterans Memorial Hall, the Arcade Building and the Innisfallen Greenhouse/C.A. Reeser House.

Earlier this year, the Landmarks Commission created a working list of properties it would like to see placed on the register, including several public buildings such as the Clark County Common Pleas Courthouse and the A.B. Graham Building.

The Warder Public Library, 137 E. High St. — which is protected as part of the East High Street Historic District — was also nominated as a standalone landmark earlier this year as part of its 125th birthday celebration.

However the city owns it and, according to its codes, publicly owned buildings are excluded from the landmarks process, Springfield Law Director Jerry Strozdas has said in a letter to the board.

The transformation at the 86-year-old News-Sun building over the past year has been amazing, Landmarks Commissioner Melissa Tuttle said. She hopes the re-use can be a catalyst to renovate other buildings downtown.

“There are buildings that have been saved in Springfield but far too many have been lost,” Tuttle said. “I commend Jim Lagos for what he’s done and I’m glad that building is seeing new life.”

Tuttle hopes the board will begin discussions soon about future additions to the historic register, she said. There are several strong projects in the works in Springfield, including Project Woman’s renovation at the Chrysalis Manor inside the East High Street Historic District.

“Having owners recognize a building is important and being willing to work with us is something that’s vital to our community,” Tuttle said.

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