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Jun. 4—Landmarks Illinois, a statewide membership-based historic preservation nonprofit organization, has sent a letter to the Danville City Council regarding the city pursuing the demolition of Bresee Tower.
According to Landmarks Illinois officials, Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. is pursuing demolition of the historic building without considering all possible reuse options.
Landmarks Illinois included Bresee Tower on its Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois in 2012 and has been monitoring possible preservation progress on the property, including being in contact with developers who have expressed interest in rehabilitating the historic building, according to Kaitlyn McAvoy, communications manager with Landmarks Illinois.
The letter from Quinn Adamowski, regional advocacy manager, states Landmarks Illinois is an "on-the-ground advocate, offering technical assistance, practical resources, small grants and access to strategic partnerships to give people the tools they need to save important places in their communities."
"We have monitored the starts, pauses and lulls in redevelopment efforts. We have also closely watched media coverage over the past couple of years in which the only public narrative is that the largest building in Vermilion County must be demolished without giving due consideration to possible reuse. We understand where Mayor Williams stands. However, without a public debate, it is unknown where members of the community, if presented with all the facts and opinions, would stand on this issue."
The letter continues, "Now that the city has the deed to the building, effectively making Bresee Tower a public-owned structure, civic leaders have a duty to present taxpayers with all possible options for its future. If, ultimately, there is no interest in redeveloping Bresee Tower, then the mayor will be proven correct in his assessment that, as he stated (to media) ... "There is no possibility for this to be reimagined at this point." Are the citizens of Danville okay with the city spending $3 million, an estimate from 2018, on tearing down a building without investigating possible interest for redevelopment?"
"On Sept. 13, 2018, Bresee Tower (officially the First National Bank Building) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to the recognition as a valuable place worthy of preservation, this designation opens the door to significant financial incentives for private reuse. With listing on the National Register, a reuse project of Bresee Tower could take advantage of a 20 percent Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit. Communities have leveraged this federal incentive to spark economic activity and job creation. Bresee Tower offers this opportunity to Danville. Also, there is an Illinois Historic Preservation Tax Credit that can be layered with the federal credit to provide an additional 25 percent credit for historic rehabilitation projects."
"To be clear, highlighting federal and state historic preservation tax credits is extremely important to attract experienced developers. Landmarks Illinois has been in contact with two developers with interest in the property. One of them, Celadon Properties, has a proposal to redevelop Bresee Tower using federal and state historic preservation tax credits alongside affordable housing based financial incentives. We are aware that Mayor Williams has had conversations with Celadon Properties about its proposal and that he suggested their project would not be a viable use of the building. We believe there should be a public discussion about the proposal from Celadon Properties, which is confident its proposals is viable. We also support issuing an RFP (request for proposals) that will potentially result in proposals from other developers who have an award-winning track record like Celadon Properties."
"Private rehabilitation would result in job creation, tax revenues and would avoid the $3 million cost of demolition. We believe a reuse option that could generate economic activity and new property tax income, leverage state and federal incentives and prevent taxpayer-funded demolition is worth considering."
"According to Mayor Williams, the city will be issuing an RFP for demolition. We call on the mayor and other civic leaders to concurrently issue an RFP for redevelopment so that all options have a fair public hearing. We encourage the Danville City Council to work with local advocates and organizations like Landmarks Illinois to evaluate alternatives and leverage incentives before moving forward with pursuing the demolition of Bresee Tower."
The letter also was copied to Williams, Logan Cronk with the City of Danville, state Sen. Scott Bennett, state Rep. Mike Marron and Vermilion Advantage's Tim Dudley.
Williams went inside Bresee Tower earlier this week and said, "Unfortunately, it's trashed. It's way worse than I thought it would be."
He walked through all 12 floors. The building has bad infiltration of water where the carpets on the seventh floor were sopping wet, and there was water damage on other floors, such as the fourth and fifth floors, Williams said.
"Unfortunately, it's just nasty and terribly far gone," Williams said.
In response to the Landmarks Illinois letter, Williams said the Collinses had four years to do something, and nothing was done. They've not fulfilled promises made since November 2018, he said.
Williams also said in general he's had conversations with possible development groups, including Celadon, but he was not given information he requested.
The city is waiting to see if there will be an actual appeal over the deed transfer of Bresee Tower to the city. City officials also are proceeding with demolition RFPs.