The city of Springfield has sold at public auction several tax-foreclosed properties, including one of the most unique buildings in western Massachusetts.
After several failed attempts to find a developer for the architecturally significant but horribly rundown house at 60 Byers Street, the city changed its strategy and pursued the public auction approach. The result was a high bid of $18,000 on a property the city had once assessed was worth more than $200,000.
Thomas Mathews, a project manager with the city’s Office of Planning and Economic Development, said the odd-looking house is an important building the city did not want to lose.
" We're happy. The city is happy," said Mathews. " We were not getting anywhere with the RFPs ( request for proposals) and we felt a public auction would be another avenue because you usually get a different crowd of people for those."
The high bidder at the public auction was Miguel Menchu of Lynn. He has not said what his plans are for the building.
" We're hoping the new owner does a good job and we are anxious for him to do well," said Mathews.
The two-story house that sits in the middle of a block of Victorian buildings across from the Springfield Armory National Historic Site is a rare International Style design by Thurston Monson. It has curved walls, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired ironwork, and an entire wall of glass.
It was built in the 1950s and at some point the interior was divided into three apartments. The city took ownership of the house in 2010.
Because the city sold the house at auction, and not through the request for proposals process, it can’t dictate how the building is used.
" They could do an office, but we hope they put some residential in there," said Mathews.
Because the house is located in an historic district the city gets to sign-off on any exterior changes.
" His plans will have to be approved by the historical commission as well as the city," said Mathews.
The Springfield Historic Preservation Fund had offered a $50,000 incentive as part of the city’s earlier attempts to find a developer for 60 Byers Street.
The new owner could apply to the fund to help restore the property, according to Robert McCarroll, the president of the organization’s board of trustees.
"Obviously, the trustees are still very interested in helping with the building. How much money the trustees would put in to it is the question," said McCarroll after learning the city planned to sell the house at a public auction.
The city’s auction of nine houses and 13 vacant lots generated bids totaling $230,000.