A request made by developers to demolish the large white house diagonally across from Mercy Hospital was approved by the city’s Building and Development Services staff over the weekend, according to online records.
The colonial-style home — 1755 S. National Ave. — is 92 years old and has been the heart of a zoning battle between its owners, developers BK&M LLC., and residents in the University Heights Neighborhood Association.
Many residents in the historic neighborhood are up in arms after learning BK&M purchased five pieces of property on or near the intersection of National Avenue and Sunshine Street and want it rezoned from residential to commercial.
The developers boarded up the white house last month and put a chain-link fence around the yard.
On Monday afternoon, a hydraulic excavator could be seen in the home’s backyard.
“We fully intend to demo the house this week,” said Ralph Duda III, one of the developers who purchased the house a few months ago. “The house is unlivable. It is completely blighted.”
Duda and his partner, Anthony Tolliver, are requesting the properties diagonally across from Mercy be rezoned from residential to retail.
Duda said the house has been broken into three times since it was boarded up.
“It’s a liability for us right now,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of money in that house. Don’t think it doesn’t hurt me to demo that house at this stage. That’s even more risk we are taking.”
“At the end of the day, that house would probably have to take $300,000 to get it back to residential good standing right now,” he said, “but then you’re still at the busiest corner in Springfield. No one is going to buy the house. Economically it makes zero sense.”
Duda said he’s seen where people have pulled up photos of the house when it was for sale and commented that it’s a beautiful home worth preserving.
“Sure, the house looks pretty from 50 to 60 feet off the street,” he said. “But when you are next to it, you’re putting your fingers through rotted wood. And that roof is caving in and there’s mold and there’s wood rot throughout the entire house.
“It’s just lipstick on a pig. At the end of the day,” he said, “it’s still a pig.”
Other wrecking permits waiting approval
They have also applied for wrecking permits for 1119 E. Sunshine St., 1739 S. National Ave., and 1745 S. National Ave. — but none of these have been approved yet.
The zoning request was supposed to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission in early October, but that rezoning case has been postponed at the request of the applicant to the next regular Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Nov. 17.
Their plans include potentially tearing down a few historic houses at or near the intersection of National Avenue and Sunshine Street. Among them is 1755 S. National Ave., which has been the subject of numerous news stories over the years because residents have strongly opposed the property being used for anything other than a single-family residence.
Also, there are the two houses to the north — 1745 S. National Ave. and 1739 S. National Ave. — as well as one around the corner at 1138 E. University St.
Brock Rowe, interim director of Building Development Services, told the Daily Citizen in an email last week that getting a wrecking permit approved is “not a speedy process” because of requirements such as getting an asbestos inspection completed and hiring a licensed plumber to cap the sewer at the property line.
Neighborhood says retail not a good fit
The neighborhood association is opposed to a developer’s request to rezone the properties from residential to general retail and released a statement about a week ago. The statement reads in part:
“General retail is the most intense commercial use and offers no assurances for compatibility with surrounding neighborhood uses or character and would have a negative impact on the surrounding properties for reasons including creating further traffic issues at an already challenging location.”
The white home at 1755 S. National Ave. was on the market for years. It seems no one was interested in purchasing the home due to the traffic and noise. That intersection is the second busiest in Springfield with about 67,000 vehicles passing through daily.