Spain House decision tabled

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A polite but terse public hearing on the future of the Spain House ended with no decision but at least one promise.
The historic home’s owner will “never, ever restore” it, said Greg Pirkle, speaking on behalf of Calvary Baptist Church during the 90-minute meeting at City Hall.
Calvary presented its case for a “certificate of appropriateness” to demolish the century-old house after efforts to renovate or relocate it proved unsuccessful.
The church had bought the home in 2006 as part of a nearly $1.3 million deal that included most of the other properties on the downtown block. It was part of the church’s long-range expansion plan.
And at the time, the house had no restrictions and was not designated as a local historic landmark, as it is today.
Citing costs of nearly $600,000 to rehab the structure, Pirkle called it unfeasible and said it would place undue economic hardship on the church.
“We have exhausted every remedy that we can,” Pirkle said. “Do not make that house sit on the corner block and become a blight to the city.”
But members of the Historic Preservation Commission, which governs historic landmarks, said Calvary’s application was incomplete and provided little information to support its claims.
Pirkle disagreed.
The commission tabled a decision until March 11. In the meantime, it wants Calvary to provide it with the property’s market value, demolition cost estimates and plans for its future use for the site.
“I’m not sure the burden of proof has been met,” said commission Chairwoman Karen Keeney. “I’m not sure they’re unable to rehab the structure if they really wanted to.”
But the church doesn’t want to rehab the structure. And Pirkle affirmed this after commission member Michael Jones asked whether the church will “never, ever restore the building.”
“No,” Pirkle said. It will not.
He said the building doesn’t suit Calvary’s future needs. And if the church spends $600,000 on a capital project, he added, it would make more sense to put it toward a new building with more space and a better layout.
Keeney and commission member Doyce Deas, though, lamented the potential loss of one of Tupelo’s few historic structures.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.