City Again Gets No Bids To Buy Unique Historic House

Apr 14, 2017

A Frank Lloyd Wright-type house in Springfield remains abandoned after the city twice failed this year to persuade someone to purchase and redevelop the property.
Credit WAMC

A second deadline passed this week with no offers to purchase and restore one of the most unique buildings in western Massachusetts.  Historic preservationists are left anxious over its fate.

There were a lot of lookers, but no takers for the odd-looking house at 60 Byers Street.

 No one came forward with an offer to purchase the architecturally significant but horribly rundown property from the city of Springfield despite a $50,000 incentive from an historic preservation fund and a two-month extension of the original deadline for bids.

" We were very disappointed," said Thomas Mathews, a project manager with the city’s Office of Planning and Economic Development. "We hoped somebody would come and look at it and fall in love with it, but that did not happen."

He said city officials will decide in a few weeks what to do next.  One possibility is to try to sell the house at auction with other properties the city has seized for nonpayment of taxes.

The two-story house that sits in the middle of a block of Victorian buildings is a rare International Style.  It has curved walls, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired ironwork, and an entire wall of glass. It was built in the 1950s on a hillside overlooking the city’s downtown by Thurston Munson, an artist and architect who painted murals and designed churches throughout New England.

The interior was later divided into three apartments.  It was abandoned and the city took ownership in 2010.

A request for proposals to purchase and redevelop the property was issued by the city in late December 2016.  When no offers were received by the original deadline of Feb. 14th, city officials decided to extend the bidding period for two more months.

" A lot of people wanted to see it. They came to the open houses and walked through, but they apparently just thought there was too much work to be done, with not enough return on investment," said Mathews.

Michael Broad, a consultant for a nonprofit housing developer, offered his assessment after touring the house in January.

" I think it is a total loss, unfortunately," he said.

He said the concrete masonry needs to be replaced, the roof is shot, the heating plant doesn’t work and all the copper pipes are gone.

Robert McCarroll, president of the board of trustees of the Springfield Historic Preservation Fund, said it was “unfortunate” the city received no offers for the house.

" I am not as optimistic as I was before," said McCarroll.  " I would have thought a $50,000 incentive for the restorations would have produced somebody."

The fund was created by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and MGM Springfield to assist in the restoration of historic properties within a half-mile of the downtown casino MGM is building.

The Byers Street house was the first project for the fund.

" The trustees were willing to put some money into it and now we hope the city can figure out a way to put some money toward this," said McCarroll.

The house is located in the Quadrangle-Mattoon Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.