Historic group wants a say on old Oswego hall : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Historic group wants a say on old Oswego hall |
|Village board urged to involve HPC as they consider building's fate|
|by John Etheredge|
The Oswego Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) wants to have a say in what becomes of the old village hall.
Ron Elvin, a commission member, reminded the village board last week they created the HPC and it can serve "as a tool for the board" in determining the vacant building's fate.
"You should use us (the HPC) for your own benefit and for the benefit of the village," he said, adding, "Please engage us and involve us in your decision-making for this and going forward as well."
Elvin also cautioned board members not to "be afraid of the HPC" and to remember the board will always retain the right to make the final decision on the building's fate.
Located at 113 Main Street, the old village hall has been vacant since the new village hall opened at 100 Parkers Mill in June 2009.
Elvin presented his comments as board members discussed the possible re-development of the block on which the old village hall stands. Main, Washington, Van Buren and Adams streets bound the block.
In addition to old village hall, the village already owns two other buildings on the block. One building is the former old Oswego Township Hall at 63 Washington Street that now serves as the site of offices of the Oswego Chamber of Commerce. The village also owns the building that houses Firehouse Pizza & Pub at 65 Washington Street. (The restaurant property is to be sold to the owners of Firehouse Pizza & Pub under an agreement approved by the board last year.)
"To us the thought process should not be if the old village hall should be preserved, but how can we preserve the old village hall," Elvin said, adding, "How can we build on the historical blocks that are in place to build for the future?"
"It's not our intent to keep every old building," Elvin said. "More times than not an old building is just an old building. And I'm not hear just to beg for retaining the old village hall at any cost."
However, Elvin reminded board members that the village completed an architectural resource study in 2009 that identified the village hall as the only building in the downtown block bounded by Main, Washington, Adams and Van Buren streets as contributing "to the architectural make-up of the downtown and also historically significant."
Elvin said the old village hall has been an integral part of the community since its construction in 1920.
Referring to the HPC, Elvin said, "We feel it is important to keep and repurpose whenever possible."
He noted that sometimes tax incentives can be offered or grants obtained to preserve or re-use historic properties.
"Although bulldozing a building may seem the cheapest and easiest way to go forward, bulldozing the historic fabric of the community can be extremely expensive in the long run," Elvin said, adding, "Once it's gone, you can't bring it back. We've learned that lesson before."
Last March, Steve Jones, village administrator, recommended the board have the old village hall demolished. In making his recommendation, Jones cited the deteriorating condition of the building. Village officials have confirmed there is extensive mold in the building, the roof leaks and the basement floods.
But board members later agreed to have village staff review the possible options for the old village hall and the other properties on the block.
In a memo to the board, Rod Zenner, the village's community development director, and Kasey Evans, a village planner, noted "there are opportunities for public/private partnerships for the future use" of the much of the block, including the old village hall.
Zenner and Evans outlined four possible courses of action for the village hall and the other properties it owns on the block:
•Sell the village owned properties, including the old village hall.
•Create an RFP (request for proposals) for development of the site.
•Demo the old village hall and level the site.
•Preserve the old village hall.
Concerning selling the old village hall, Zenner and Evans wrote: "To date there have been several groups tour the village hall building, but no offers have been made to acquire the site."
Creating an RFP would allow the village to "identify (private) development partners to achieve the community's goals for the site. The village would review the RFPs it would receive and then select one that is 'appropriate and desirable,'" the memo notes.
Demolishing the building would resolve current code violations and allow the property to be used as a parking lot "while the site awaits redevelopment," according to Zenner and Evans.
Concerning the possible preservation of old village hall, Zenner and Evans wrote: "Though the building is not historically significant based on its age or architecture, the structure's previous use as the village hall is significant." However, they added, "The disadvantage to preservation would be that the cost to preserve the building could be expensive and exceed the return on investment."
Board members discussed the memo, but told village staff they would like additional information.
Board member Pam Parr described the information village staff has assembled so far on the old village hall site and the adjoining properties as fabulous, but said, "I don't know enough to make a decision at this point."
Board member Gail Johnson said she would like to further discuss the possible preservation of the old village hall with the HPC.
She suggested board and HPC members could inspect the old village hall to "see what it is like and what is really viable."
Noting the deteriorating condition of the building, board member Scott Volpe said "time is of the essence."
Board member Tony Giles said he liked the option of pursuing an RFP because the village would get "the top creativity" from developers who would submit proposals while at the same time retaining control over redevelopment of the site.
"We would kind of hold the cards here," Giles said.
The old village hall was constructed following the passage of a $10,000 referendum in March 1921, according to articles published that year in the Kendall County Record, publishers of the Ledger-Sentinel.
As originally designed, the building housed the Oswego Volunteer Fire Department and the office of the village's water department. The 1921 referendum also provided funding for the village to drill a water well on the site and install water mains.
The Oswego Volunteer Fire Department used the building until the early 1950s when a new, larger station was constructed one block north on Main Street. From the mid-1950s to 1991, the building housed village governmental offices and the village police department. Village police relocated to their current station on U.S. Route 34 across from Fox Bend Golf Course in late 1991. From the mid-1980s through the 1990s the building was expanded and its interior reconfigured multiple times to accommodate the village's rapidly growing staff.
After municipal offices were moved out of the building in the spring of 2009, the village allowed the Oswegoland Park District to use the building as a greenhouse during the winter months.