The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

June 25, 2013

Bresee Optimism

BY JENNIFER BAILEY
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — Redevelopment, not demolition, still is in the forefront of discussions by city, county and economic development officials for downtown’s Bresee Tower.

The Downtown Danville, Inc. Board was to vote Tuesday on an extension of the option for Bresee Tower with Land Co. of Danville. The 1918 12-story building, 2-4 N. Vermilion St., is adjacent to the Vermilion County Courthouse annex. But there was not a quorum of the board at the end of the meeting for a vote to be taken.

DDI executive director Dana Schaumburg said the board had a quorum for its annual meeting and the beginning of the board’s regular meeting. But interim board president John Dreher left early for other business and the sharing of ideas dealing with Bresee and historic preservation of local buildings.

“Our option is up at the end of this month,” Schaumburg said about Bresee.

Board members are looking at extending the option for at least another six months because “we’re still working on our plans.” The option calls for DDI to have the first right of refusal on any donation of the building to someone. The option has been extended several times in the last several years and at one time included a developer.

Schaumburg said there still is a Bresee Tower planning committee consisting of city, county, DDI and Vermilion Advantage representatives.

New Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard was recently updated on the building.

“We’re looking at options. We’re looking at having some type of movement within the next couple of months,” Schaumburg said.

“We are making good progress. People are interested in the building,” she added.

Schaumburg said redevelopment is the goal.

“It’s a viable building,” she said.

Due to the freeze/thaw cycles not being too bad the last few years, the concrete building has held up more so recently.

“It’s going to cost money either way,” Schaumburg said of redevelopment or demolition. “Let’s put the money toward saving the building ... This is the closest we’ve been in a while. It’s going to take time and small steps. We remain optimistic.”

Leases of the towers on top of the building also remain. The corporation has continued to supply electricity for the antennas on the roof for cell phone and television services until someone else takes over the building.

The committee still works with Landmarks Illinois and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Dreher, Schaumburg and other officials will meet again today with Frank Butterfield with the new Landmarks Illinois Springfield office. Dreher said the preservation organization can help with marketing, expert services and unique financing.

“(He’s) a new representative to help us with these old buildings,” Dreher said.

Local officials still are trying to get a handle on liability insurance and other costs for ownership and redevelopment possibilities for Bresee.

Butterfield also will visit the downtown Masonic Temple building.

“Here is another building whose current owners and stewards are dwindling in numbers and money …,” Dreher said.

Looking toward the future, officials want to get ahead of this building and its needs before it gets worse, he said.

Bresee Tower was listed on Landmarks Illinois’ statewide “Ten Most Endangered Historic Places” in Illinois list last year.

A market study performed on Bresee Tower years ago showed the building could support mixed residential, professional and retail uses.

The building has suffered from deterioration on its outside. Estimates have been at $1 million to $1.5 million to renovate the outside terra cotta.

Vacant since 2006, Bresee is owned by Land Co. of Danville, a subsidiary of Kentucky-based First Corbin Financial Corp., which says it is unable to finance a renovation. The company is willing to “gift” the building to a non-profit.

The corporation has tried to donate the building to the city, county, local colleges and civic organizations, which could receive rehabilitation grants.

The building owner forced business tenants out and closed the building in 2005.

Debris initially fell from the building in February 2006. A protective covering was installed for pedestrians.