Developer seeks TIF approval to buy former surveying museum downtown

A Springfield developer is hoping to buy the downtown building that formerly housed the National Museum of Surveying, using $120,000 in TIF funds.

Chris Nickell's 521 East LLC seeks to access TIF money for the purchase of 521 E. Washington St. The City of Springfield sought to buy the building with $425,000 in TIF funds earlier this year, but that proposal fell through amid debate about the best use of the funds.

Nickell, who has developed several apartments downtown in the past, appeared before the Springfield Economic Development Commission on April 11 to answer questions about the project, but the commission hasn't voted on the request yet.

The property is owned by Bank & Trust Company, which foreclosed on it from the previous owners when the surveying museum failed. Nickell said the bank has agreed to finance his purchase of the building, contingent upon the TIF request being approved.

"We are in the situation, of course, with many of the buildings downtown, the bank considers it a big of a high-risk property because of its size and the number of years it's remained vacant," he said, "so we have a bit of a funding gap or financing gap."

The request for $120,000 would equal 30 percent of the current $400,000 purchase price for the building. The building would house a salon, spa and cosmetology classrooms in the first and second floors; Nickell says he doesn't have plans yet for the finished basement level. He declined to name the business which would occupy the first and second floors, although he said it's an existing business that wants to move downtown and have more space.

The property was previously renovated with $118,000 in TIF funds in 2008 prior to the opening of the National Museum of Surveying. Because of the previous renovations, Nickell says he wouldn't have to do much work to the building.

If the Springfield City Council ultimately grants final approval for the request, renovations would being in July, and the salon would open Sept. 1.

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