Hearing set on Spain House demolition request

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Just months after a bitter fight to save the century-old Spain House, the Historic Preservation Commission must now consider its destruction.
And some members say they’re ready for another fight.
The commission set a Feb. 25 hearing to approve or deny Calvary Baptist Church’s application for a demolition permit.
The church owns the century-old Spain House, located at Main and Madison streets downtown, and wants the structure removed so it can develop the site for other uses.
It applied for the permit Jan. 27.
“I can’t imagine not denying the permit after having fought so hard for it,” said commission member Tish Wright. “I still think we should back up our word and deny it. Let them go to court.”
An earlier attempt by Calvary to demolish the house triggered the commission’s fight to save it. The commission nominated the house as a local historic landmark, thus protecting it for six months until the City Council could consider the request.
The council, on Oct. 6, voted to designate the house a local landmark. The move permanently protects the house against demolition or significant alteration.
But there are ways around it, and Calvary is trying one. In its application to the commission, the church says keeping the house would cause “unreasonable economic hardship.”
It cites the roughly $600,000 cost to renovate the structure as being cost-prohibitive, and states that the church has no beneficial use for the house.
“The church will suffer unreasonable economic hardship if a certificate of appropriateness for demolition of the structure is not approved,” the application states.
While commission members are sympathetic to the church’s situation, many say they’re not likely to budge.
“We made it a landmark to prevent it being demolished,” said vice chair Karen Keeney, “so it goes against all our efforts to grant a permit.”
If the commission denies the permit, the church can appeal to the city’s Planning Committee and ultimately to the City Council, said senior city planner Renee Autumn Ray.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.