Study: Meredith Home is sound; website features video tour

News-DemocratNovember 6, 2013 

— An architecture firm determined the Meredith Home is structurally sound, though the building does show some deterioration.

The city-owned building at 16 S. Illinois St. is in "fair good condition and requires no immediate structural repairs," White & Borgognoni Architects said in a conditions assessment done in October.

Belleville resident Rick Ortiz said the study was thorough and favorable and will help attract developers to preserve and renovate the building.

Ortiz advocated against demolishing the historic building and using the property for a memorial park.

Last month, Ortiz launched www.projectbelleville.org, which describes the building's history and current condition, and features a video tour of the former Hotel Belleville.

The architecture firm's findings, recommendations and photos are also on Ortiz's website.

City officials will use the condition assessment in a request for proposals for the property in coming weeks, according to Eric Schauster, the city's economic development specialist and grants coordinator.

According to the study, the Art Deco building was constructed with "durable, long-life materials" and the Catholic Diocese of Belleville kept the building in good condition.

Gail White, of White & Borgognoni Architects, said much of the building's deterioration is because the building has been unoccupied since 2010, when the city bought it from the diocese.

The roof has wind-uplift damage and moisture damage because the heating and cooling has been off for a few years.

There is mold growth on the basement walls, but that has not comprised the structural integrity of the basement.

And, though the building was established before seismic regulations and upgrades are not required, the architecture firm recommends such work.

The assessment, which cost $5,250, will be paid for by a $3,675 grant from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and an in-kind donation by the architecture firm.

"(Historic preservation) is not only something we have a lot of experience in, but we have a personal interest in as well," White said. "Because it's a publicly owned building that has a potential to be used as a benefit to the community ... we thought we'd help take a first step in determining if the building can be renovated."

Ortiz said he and others who support the "Save the Belleville Meredith Home" campaign welcomed the momentum to give the building another chance.

"We will never be able to build something like the Meredith Home," Ortiz said. "I'm proud of our city for listening to us, getting the grant, and for our officials, across party lines, to be responsive to us."

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert announced in September the city will wait until May to proceed with demolition so preservationists have more time to find investors.

Eckert's announcement came shortly after the city received higher than expected bids for demolition.

If developers do not come forward, the city will proceed with plans to build a park, per an agreement with Belleville attorney Bruce Cook.

Cook donated $500,000 to the city with the understanding that a park will be established at the site for his late daughter, Susannah Marison, who died in 2010 from a brain tumor.

Eckert said Cook expects his donation back if plans for the park evaporate.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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