SCHPC supports placing old hospital on National Register of Historic Places (Update 12:10 p.m. Aug. 3)
Even though development plans have fizzled for the old Fitzgibbon Hospital, the building may still achieve a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
When the Marshall Housing Authority submitted a letter opposing the addition of more low-income housing for the elderly, Sunflower Development Group opted out of the pending old hospital development project.
As part of the development, Sunflower had hired Rosin Preservation to submit the nomination for national historic status. At Sunflower's request, Rosin attempted to drop the nomination on Thursday afternoon.
However, Saline County Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Eric Crump said at this point the nomination can't be withdrawn. National Register Coordinator Tiffany Patterson explained the public still maintains the right to comment on the nomination.
"She had to dig deep into the regulations to see how to handle this situation," Crump said.
Even without a pending development plan, SCHPC discussed and approved the building's historical significance at the monthly meeting on Thursday, Aug. 2. Crump and SCHPC member Jim Steinmetz extensively researched the ramifications that the commission's decision would have on any future development projects for the old Fitzgibbon Hospital.
Crump explained national historic status would assist development but not hinder it. Auxiliary member and local historian Marvin Wilhite said the status is more of a title than a decree. The federal or state governments will not have any say in development, unless the developers choose to pursue historical tax credits. Unless those credits are utilized, the only historic protection the building has would be the government's ability to revoke national status.
"That's the biggest club they got," Wilhite said.
Sunflower Development Group had intended to use historical tax credits to refurbish the building. Another developer may decide not to utilize them. Crump said without the credits, the owner could alter the building in any way or even completely destroy it.
"If it's on the national registry, that's an honorary degree," Steinmetz said. "The only time the government gets involved is when there's money involved."
Crump also noted the option of historic tax credits could potentially lure a new developer to the project. He cited an old report from Sunflower, which stated the project would cost $7.7 million total. However, once Sunflower acquired both housing and historic tax credits, the company would only generate $1.6 million in debt.
The discussion then segued into the Marshall Housing Authority's decision to oppose the Sunflower development project. Steinmetz seemed relieved Sunflower had dropped the project. He hoped the building could be used for something to broaden the area's tax base, and he noted using government money for the project would require income limitations for residents.
"I don't want to do anything that's good for six months and bad for 10 years," Steinmetz said.
Steinmetz's comment prompted a discussion among auxiliary members regarding the lack of affordable housing for young professionals, professors and working-class residents.
Auxiliary member Julie Larabee said she had been excited that someone had taken interest in the building, but she also questioned the nature of the project.
"I'm thinking more along the lines of young people getting out of college need a place to live and don't qualify for low-income housing," Larabee said. "That's where I feel we fall short in this area, and that's where I feel we need to really be trying."
On the contrary, SCHPC member Mike Mills disagreed with the Marshall Housing Authority's decision.
He stated the email Marshall Housing Authority Director David Hayes sent to Sunflower overlooked potential adjustments to housing authority property.
"I thought it was pretty close-minded of the housing authority to take the stance that it did," Mills said.
Meeting guest Keith Jackson, who lives near the old hospital, expressed his disappointment that the project had failed as well.
He said he'd hoped the developers would help clean up a decaying building while also preserving a structure significant to Marshall history.
"We would very much like to see that property renovated and used ... rather than just broken windows and weeds," Jackson said.
The building's owner, Pat OHanlon, conveyed his extreme frustration in an email Thursday evening. He cited the difficulty in locating an investor to pursue this type of project.
In his opposition, Hayes cited the potential negative repercussions this project could pose for the housing authority and the community.
With nine units available for elderly renters and only four on the waiting list, Hayes believes Marshall will not have enough prospects to fill those housing authority spaces and the new 44 units.
"It would be the housing authority and that development fighting for those few applicants that we would have," Hayes said.
Hayes also said the housing authority does not posses the power to stop the Sunflower project, but it would not support it.
"As far as the housing authority putting the nix on this project, we're not," Hayes said. "We're not supporting it."
OHanlon commended the housing authority's research, but he questioned what other purpose the old hospital could serve.
"I have spent the last two years trying to find an investor that has the funding to do justice to what I was trying to do to save this property," he wrote.
OHanlon wrote that if the city has a desire to see the building refurbished and restored, it would approve R2 zoning.
This zoning would provide future investors with an incentive to renovate the old hospital.
"I am extremely disappointed that this good opportunity offered to refurbish this building is being thrown down the drain," he wrote. "There are not investors lining up to do projects like this."
While the Sunflower project has stirred controversy, placing the building on the National Historic Register of Historic Places fostered no objections from SCHPC or the eight guests in attendance.
The commission reasoned the building qualified for the category that recognizes structures associated with events that have made significant contributions to the broad pattern of the country's history.
"Fitzgibbon Hospital represents health care in the early 20th century for Saline County and surrounding counties," Crump said.
With no apparent repercussions for pursuing national historic status, the commission agreed this status could only ease a developer's project.
SCHPC will present its recommendation to the Saline County Commission. If the county commission approves the recommendation, the decision will transfer to the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
In addition to discussing the old hospital, SCHPC also formed a committee to discuss procedures for creating a local historical register and discussed ways to liven the Marshall square.
Contact Maggie Menderski at firstname.lastname@example.org
Developers abandon plan for old hospital, historic status still pending