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Financial Incentive Offered To Restore Unique Historic Home

       A developer is being sought to purchase and restore one of the most unique buildings in western Massachusetts.  Historic preservationists are offering a financial incentive from a pot of casino money.

     Along a street full of Victorian buildings, the house at 60 Byers Street in Springfield stands out. 

     The two-story house is a rare International Style with curved walls, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired ironwork, and an entire wall of glass. It was built in the 1950s on the foundation of a burned-out Victorian home by Thurston Munson, an artist and architect who painted murals and designed churches throughout New England.

           At some point, the interior was divided into three apartments.  The property was abandoned about 15 years ago and the city acquired it in 2010.  Now it is being offered for sale with a $50,000 incentive for development.

      " It needs a lot of TLC and we're hoping somebody can look at it and have the vision to improve it," said  Thomas Mathews, a project manager with the city’s Office of Planning and Economic Development          

     He said he’s fielded several calls about the house since the city issued a formal request for proposals last month and about a dozen people looked it over at a recent open house.

     " I think we are going to have a lot of interest." said Mathews.

     The house has deteriorated badly due to more than a decade of neglect. Michael Broad, a consultant for HAP Housing, said the concrete masonry needs to be replaced, the roof is shot, the heating plant doesn’t work, and all the copper piping is gone.

     " I think it is a total loss unfortunately," said Broad after looking through the  interior and exterior of the house.   " You are talking about millions of dollars to save it and there is no way to justify that for what you would get out of it."

     Katherine Pellegrino, an engineer who has overseen a number of historic renovations in Springfield, was not so quick to write it off, but said restoring the Byers Street house would be a big undertaking.

  "  You clearly need to replace the windows and those are big price items," she said.

   The $50,000 incentive is being offered by the Springfield Historic Preservation Fund.  It was established last year by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and MGM Springfield to assist in the renovation of historic properties within a half-mile of MGM’s downtown casino.

   The Byers Street house is the first project to be aided by the fund, which is controlled by a trustee group whose president is Robert McCarroll.

    "I think this is a building that has caught a lot of people's attention, and I am certainly hoping that where there is a will there is a way," said McCarroll.  " There are a lot of buildings that have been in conditions like this and caring people have appeared and fixed them. So, I am hopeful we will find that one proposal that will be able to competently fix this building."

   In addition to the $50,000 incentive, federal and state tax credits might be available to a developer because the house is located in an historic district.

   The city has scheduled a second open house on Jan. 25th   The deadline for proposals is Feb. 14th.

 

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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