BY CATHERINE O’CONNOR
Exciting new plans will soon be taking shape at 312 E. Adams St., a three-story building that was donated to the Downtown Springfield Heritage Foundation late last year by the previous owner, Gerry Hughes. The Foundation has just announced that Martin Haxel and his wife, Laurie, were the winning bidders, responding to an RFP which involved demonstrating financial ability to purchase and begin renovations within a year and a sound business plan for a project that will enhance the existing environment in Springfield’s downtown.
The Foundation used an RFP process to solicit proposals, which required a minimum bid of $30,000, but also awarded points to bidders that showed the ability to execute a well-defined plan for the historic building on East Adams, which is located between Third and Fourth streets.
The Haxels, who already own the section of the block next door at 310 E. Adams St., will now have access to an additional 5000 square feet of space in the adjoining building, a portion of which will be used to expand Haxel Law Offices. In addition, Laurie Haxel operates a biotech consulting business out of the current building.
According to Laurie, “We had tried to purchase the building a few years ago, but the time was just not right.” Because their expansion needs will only require about half the ground floor of the new space, they are currently in the early stages of planning uses for the additional two upper floors.
Built in 1912, the building parcels that make up the 300 block of East Adams were constructed as traditional, elongated, tunnel-like, mirrored sections. From above, they look like a set of four identical twin sections, every two sharing a roof skylight that originally worked as an ingenious way to bring natural lighting into the inner corridors of the upper floors.
Various sections of the block, which now houses a barbershop and real estate office, have been formerly occupied by commercial and retail companies throughout the years, including Illini Blueprint, a religious group and Illinois National Bank, with a portion of the building damaged by fire in the mid-1970s.
The Haxels say they appreciate the design potential of the building, with its unique lightwell, brick and wood architectural features and are pleased to be part of the vibrant downtown scene, where plans are taking shape for a new hotel to be built across the street from their office.
According to attorney Martin Haxel, his firm is thriving downtown. “We are not going anywhere,” he said. He added they are open to ideas for use of the upper floors of their new space.
Scott Troehler, president of the Heritage Foundation, said he hopes that the group will be able to help facilitate other redevelopment projects. The Heritage Foundation can also provide information about other incentives that may be available for redevelopers, including TIF funding through the City of Springfield and federal tax incentives that can be used by an owner who renovates the building per specific Secretary of the Interior guidelines.
“As a tax-exempt nonprofit, we accept donations of real estate in downtown Springfield with the intention of facilitating the preservation and rehabilitation of historic buildings,” he explained.
Catherine O’Connor retired from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency in 2015 and enjoys seeing the revitalization of historic buildings in Springfield.