Howell County News/ Amanda Mendez

Nonprofit Kicks Off Fundraising Efforts to Save Downtown Building

With the safety of the downtown buildings on everyone’s mind, Main Street Willow Springs has announced their first major fundraising event aimed to preserve and improve the historic 10,000 square foot building that looms at the corner of Main and Center Streets. 
A trivia night is planned for Friday, April 9 at 5:30 p.m. in the upstairs room of the Ferguson Building on E. Main St. For a six-person table, the cost is $100, and a dinner will be provided. For more information on this event, call 417-252-4167 or 417-547-3773. 
Efforts at repairs are coming none too soon. The sidewalk around the building has been blocked off for years because the building has been a known threat to public safety as well as a liability for the City of Willow Springs. 
As Howell County News has previously reported, the building changed hands in late October 2020, shifting from the private ownership of an individual to the ownership of the not-for-profit group, Main Street Willow Springs. With the subject of building collapse fresh on the community’s mind, the Main Street group wants to stress that saving their building will require an effort of the community at large. 
When the old Curtis Department Store building collapsed recently, there were miraculously no injuries at all and only minor property damage. It is too much to hope that the best case scenario could happen twice if another building collapses in downtown Willow Springs. 
Blake Browne, owner of the Curtis building, agreed. In a phone interview, he contrasted the unknown and unforeseen issues of his recently collapsed building with the very well-known and much-feared issues of the building at Main and Center. His building was old, and he did not consider it to be a candidate for restoration, but he did consider it to be structurally sound.
By contrast, the state of the Main Street group’s building has been a public safety concern for so long that the City of Willow Springs contracted and paid for an evaluation of its condition by a structural engineer in late 2019. The City Council heard the results of this report at the January 2020 meeting.
According to the structural assessment provided by Allgeier, Martin, and Associates, Inc. in 2019, “Repairs should be made as soon as possible. The masonry wall is currently at risk and poses a significant danger to the owner/occupant and general public should it collapse. If repairs are not made soon, collapse or partial collapse is probable...If the repairs are not completed before next winter and the building has not yet collapsed, it may need to be demolished.” The report went on to suggest that the City even extend the barricades it had in place in order to close larger sections of the sidewalk and parking spaces, which was done at the time.
In the meeting on January 16, 2020, Beverly Hicks said, “We believe based on his recommendation, it does pose a danger to the public.”
At that time, the engineer who evaluated the building, Jared Nichols, estimated the cost to the owner to adequately address the emergency issues would be at least $50,000.
Board member of Main Street Willow Springs Jeff Conger told Howell County News his group is now receiving estimates of $350,000 to secure the building. The group is looking at grants and other funding sources, but those avenues take time.
“There’s options to get money, but the community has to be behind this for it to happen,” Conger said. 
Instead of focusing on the public safety aspect and the resolution of the danger, Conger encourages the people of Willow Springs to consider the potential this building holds and all the good it can bring to the community.
“We’re the only ones who are going to try to save it,” he explained, “There’s not another building like it. It’s unique...I remember what Main Street used to be. You didn’t have to leave Willow Springs to shop. Let’s keep our money at home. [Main Street] was a happening place with lots of businesses,” he said. 
The group’s vision for this single building that sprawls half a city block downtown is to create a small business incubator for retail shops to give new entrepreneurs in Willow Springs a “hand up, not a hand out.”
“There are high costs to fix this building, what it can bring to the community is valuable,” Conger said. 
To get involved in the fundraising efforts or to sign up for the upcoming trivia night event, contact Christy Graves at 417-252-4167 or Jeff Conger at 417-547-3773.

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

Comment Here