Landmarks Illinois Statement: Public Documents Show YWCA Demolition More Costly Than Rehab
January 10, 2017
Communications Manager, Landmarks Illinois
Director of Springfield Office, Landmarks Illinois
Landmarks Illinois believes recently released public documents on the Springfield City Clerk’s website show that reuse of the YWCA building in the Central Springfield Historic District would be more economically feasible than demolition of the structure. In our view, the documents, which were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request and include emails between city officials and developer Flaherty & Collins, disprove the city’s long standing argument that reuse of the YWCA building would create a financial hardship for Springfield.
Of particular concern for Landmarks Illinois is an email dated June 10, 2016, between Karen Davis, Springfield Director of Economic Development, and Julie Collier, a Developer with Flaherty & Collins. In the email, Collier responds to a number of Davis’ questions regarding Flaherty & Collins’ proposed “North Mansion Block” project, which included plans to rehabilitate the YWCA building at 421 E. Jackson Street for use as apartments. By reusing the historic YWCA building, Flaherty & Collins had access to a 20% Federal Historic Tax Credit. However, Collier wrote in the email that should the YWCA building be torn down, Flaherty & Collins would no longer have access to the historic tax credit and the developer may request a higher level of financial aid from the city to develop its overall proposed project for the block.
In the email, Collier wrote to Davis: “What is the cost if the YWCA is taken out? The subsidy needed would be similar or may increase because with the YWCA we are able to use historic tax credits[.]”
Landmarks Illinois believes the email exchange above demonstrates how tearing down the YWCA building fails to reduce the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) request from the developer and could result in an increase request from the city’s downtown TIF. Compounding the economic burden, the city will fund demolition at a cost of $400,000. The City Council voted to demolish the YWCA building on Dec. 6, 2016.
Landmarks Illinois has long advocated that in addition to protecting cultural heritage, historic preservation makes economic sense for communities across the state. This proves to be especially true for Springfield, despite repeated remarks from city officials that rehabilitation and reuse of the historically significant YWCA building would create an economic hardship for the city. As we have stated before, Landmarks Illinois considers the planned demolition of the YWCA building a major loss to the city of Springfield and its historic district. And, as the recently released emails show, demolition of this historic space could also lead to economic loss for the city and its taxpayers.