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Jun 28, 2013

SPHS says feasible plan unreachable for Allis House reconstruction


 

REGIONAL


(Iobserve file photo)

Staff report
SPRINGFIELD – In a press release sent this morning to local media, the Sisters of Providence Health System (SPHS) announced that

a special task force has determined that the preservation of the historic Allis House on the Mercy Medical Center campus will not be feasible.

Last October, ground was broken for the $20-million Medical Office Building at the northwest corner of the Mercy campus that is under development by Carew Chestnut Partners. Initial plans for this construction project called for the removal of four structures on the Mercy campus: the maintenance garage, the Mercy Hearing Center building, the St. Mary’s Building and the W.H. Allis House.

The decision to include the W.H. Allis House in the removal plan came after lengthy discussions and careful consideration. This difficult decision followed an internal and external engineering evaluation that determined that the structure was unsafe and unusable, could not be renovated in a financially responsible way, and could not be used for patient care nor be adequately renovated for administrative functions. 

However, after discussions with Springfield city officials and members of the local historical preservation community, SPHS agreed to reevaluate its position on demolition of the W.H. Allis House until it could reasonably be determined if restoration was a workable option and would not impede ongoing transformation of the Mercy campus. 

To that end, SPHS was involved in the creation of a task force (comprised of SPHS leaders, Springfield city officials, and private citizens who are members of Springfield Preservation Trust and Preservation Massachusetts. SPHS also engaged the services of Greg Farmer, a leading expert on historical preservation, to advise SPHS and the task force on appropriate methods to preserve the history of the Allis House. 

The task force began its work on Jan. 23 and investigated alternatives to the removal of the building, primarily focused on efforts to secure the involvement of an outside party who would be willing to invest in and oversee its restoration.  

As a result of the work of the task force, SPHS issued an RFP on March 1, which sought proposals from developers for the property. The RFP was mailed to more than 60 interested persons, and resulted in one response, from Opal Real Estate Group, which was received on April 2.

Over the past three months, SPHS officials have engaged in discussions with Opal to determine if restoration of the Allis House was a workable option and would not impede the ongoing transformation of the Mercy Campus. Although Opal brought a wealth of experience in historic restoration to these discussions, SPHS and Opal have jointly concluded that restoration of the Allis House in a financially responsible manner over a reasonable time period is not possible.  

“We appreciate the efforts of Springfield public officials, Springfield Historical Commission, Springfield Preservation Trust, Preservation Massachusetts and Opal Real Estate Group. We remain mindful of the history of the W.H. Allis House and appreciative of the importance of effectively preserving that history, particularly as it relates to the legacy of care provided by the Sisters of Providence,” said Daniel P. Moen, SPHS president and chief executive officer.

“At the same time, our ongoing role as stewards of our limited resources calls us to continue the transformation of the Mercy campus, ensuring our ability to continue to serve the needs of our community while furthering our mission,” Moen said. “Though we will not be able to preserve the Allis House, we will preserve its history”