Springfield, MA--Over the past several weeks, discussions have been held between the Sisters of Providence Health System (SPHS) and members of the local historical community regarding the future of the W.H. Allis House on the Mercy campus. These discussions have followed an SPHS request to members of both public and private historical preservation groups for input about methods for preserving the history of the building.
Last October, ground was broken for a new Medical Office Building at the northwest corner of the Mercy campus, (near the intersection of Chestnut and Carew Streets). The $20-million project is being developed by Carew Chestnut Partners and under terms of a construction and land lease agreement, Carew Chestnut Street Partners will develop and own the building. SPHS will maintain ownership of the parcel of land and will lease it to Chestnut Street Partners.
The new three-story, 75,000 square foot building will house Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Programs, the Mercy Hearing Center and two Mercy-affiliated physician practices. Hampden County Physician Associates will also occupy half of the office space in the new building through consolidation of several existing medical practice sites in the area.
Initial plans for this construction project called for the removal of four structures on the Mercy campus: Maintenance Garage, Mercy Hearing Center Building, St. Mary’s Building and the W.H. Allis House. Three of these buildings are located within the “footprint” of the Medical Office Building project; the W.H. Allis House is contiguous to it.
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 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. These findings were further validated by an outside engineering firm that SPHS engaged to assess the structural condition of the building. Steiger Engineering, Inc. also determined that the renovation of the structure would be cost prohibitive at $6-million to $7-million and would not result in a viable medical use.
However, after discussions with Springfield city officials and members of the local historical preservation community, SPHS has agreed to reevaluate its position on demolition of the W.H. Allis House until such time as it can be reasonably determined if restoration is not only a workable option, but will 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 the Springfield Preservation Trust and Preservation Massachusetts), and 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 January 23 and is investigating 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 will seek proposals from developers for the property. The details of this request will be announced at a news conference on Monday, March 4, at 9:30 a.m. in front of the Allis House.
“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, President and Chief Executive Officer, SPHS. “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.”