Historic preservationists this week won their battle to save the century-old Spain House; now they must determine what to do with it.
After a few congratulatory words among themselves, members of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission on Thursday plotted their next step.
It was the commission that had nominated the three-story house for local historic designation, which the City Council on Tuesday approved.
And it did so against the wishes of Calvary Baptist Church, which owns it.
The church said it wants the house gone and will pursue plans to either demolish it or find someone to move it to another location.
The designation will make that task harder, but not impossible, said church member Greg Pirkle.
“The church cannot use the house,” he told the Daily Journal.
Either the building will continue to deteriorate, the commission will find someone to take it or the church will look for a legal way to have it demolished, he said.
Commission members, though, want to see the house renovated at its existing location on the corner of West Main and Madison streets.
“I feel bad for the church, but we just really had to take a stand,” said Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis, who voted for the designation and also attended the commission’s meeting at City Hall.
“The Historic Preservation Commission needs to do something now,” she said.
“If we’re going to establish these designations then we need to do something to help support the owners.”
Suggestions included helping the church get the house on the National Register of Historic Places to be eligible for tax credits, which the church could then sell to make money and restore the house.
Or the commission could help the church get federal grant money through the Save America’s Treasure program, said Brad Prewitt, a resident who also is renovating a historic downtown house.
According to the National Park Service Web site, nearly 20 Mississippi structures have won nearly $5 million from the grant in the past nine years.
Prewitt urged the commission to seek the grant and make constant progress toward renovating the house.
Estimates to restore the house – which over the years has served as a family dwelling, funeral home and office space – range from $300,000 to $500,000.
“People are going to make a judgment based on how this process works and whether the house is restored,” Prewitt told the group at its meeting Thursday.
“You don’t want to hang the house around the neck of the church.”
Commission Chairman Michael Jones said it will take time to form an appropriate plan.
He also stressed that the group must continue to work with the church to find a win-win solution, if at all possible.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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