McAdams building saved from wrecking ball

Updated Oct 09, 2015

A historic downtown building set for demolition last year has been sold for $185,000 and could be converted into apartments, according to its new owner.

The McAdams Building, 31 E. High St., was purchased for $185,000 by Wellington Square, LLC, the real estate arm of the Turner Foundation.

The building will be converted to condominiums or apartments, which will be determined through a market analysis, Turner Foundation Executive Director John Landess said.

The first floor will likely have retail space, Landess said. It’s unclear how many apartment units will be available at this point, he added.

“We didn’t want to see it torn down,” Landess said. “It’s one of the last big buildings left on the core block that can be redeveloped.”

The building’s former owner, JHL Investment Company Inc., had filed demolition plans last November. The property was expected to be converted into a parking lot, said owner Jim Lagos, but the discussions with the Turner Foundation have been going on for about a year.

The Foundation is working with a design firm to complete a report on the building’s redevelopment, Landess said.

“We’ll use that as the building block to take the steps forward we need to,” he said.

Once that’s complete, the Foundation will look for a developer to take over the property.

The Turner Foundation recently redeveloped the Deitzel Apartments on Main Street, but Landess said a project of this size is bigger than it can handle. It will likely also look to apply for historic tax credits for the project.

“You really want to bring someone in with the experience,” Landess said.

The Foundation is also currently working on the building to fix several city code violations, including fixing the cornice and the roof, Landess said.

The cornice repair on the north end of the structure is the primary health and safety matter for the city at this time, said Springfield Community Development Director Shannon Meadows. According to an engineer’s report issued in March, the cornice has rotated and needs to be permanently repaired before the upcoming freeze and thaw cycle.

“It’s our biggest and main focus,” Meadows said.

The city also issued a notice to elect to the owners, which asked them to demolish, sell or renovate the structure. The building will be renovated, Meadows said, and a redevelopment plan is due to be approved by the city on Friday.

As part of the rehabilitation project, the owners will have to fix 28 different code violations, many of which are standard for a renovation of this size, including adding restrooms and fire suppression.

Local business owners Tom Heaphey and Vicki Rulli initiated the discussion with Lagos about saving the building last year. They own Itinerant Studio, 149 W. Jefferson St., and will also work with Landess as part of the redevelopment.

“The goal is to get the whole downtown housing jump started,” Heaphey said.

During the interior demolition process, crews removed walls and ceilings and opened up all the windows, Lagos said.

“You could have very large windows on the east, north and south sides,” Lagos said. “It makes a lot of sense. The building is structurally sound.”

The five-story, 50,000-square-foot McAdams Building was constructed in 1921. Lagos purchased it in 1978, according to auditor office records. It was severely damaged by a flood in 2010 while a new sprinkler system was being installed.

“I’m very, very happy,” Lagos said. “I wish them well. Hopefully there will be a lot of people living in downtown Springfield.”

As part of the transaction, Lagos also purchased the vacant lot at 12 N. Fountain Ave. from Wellington Square for $25,000. The former Carter Jewelers Co. Building was destroyed during a 2013 fire and later demolished. The fire also caused damage to the nearby Bushnell Building, which is owned by Lagos. He spent about $18 million to renovate the building, which was recently LEED platinum certified.

“It’s very important to me,” Lagos said. “I want a complete zone of security around it.”

The area will be landscaped and will make an “L” shape, Lagos said, starting at Fountain on Main on East Main Street to the large lot on Fountain Avenue, near Gourmet Gift Baskets.

“We can have some nice patio effects with concrete,” Lagos said.