Concern expressed over plans to demolish former Murphy Motors building.
When the Hannibal City Council approved the city’s purchase of the former Murphy Motors site at its Oct. 16 meeting, the proposed plan was for the structure at 422 N. Main St. to be razed. At least one Hannibal resident wants to discuss the site’s future before the wrecking ball is brought in.
“I’m not against them owning it in any way, shape or form. I just want to see if there’s some way to utilize the building,” said Bob Yapp of Hannibal.
Yapp believes the site has great potential.
“I think a dinner theater could be a possibility. Certainly (there could be) a restaurant and loft apartments in the upper level looking over the river levee. There could be an antique shop. There could be a bakery. There’s just a whole number of things,” said Yapp, president of Preservation Resources, Inc. “I’m hoping we can find a way to adaptively reuse the building and not lose a historic structure.”
In an Oct. 17 e-mail to city hall, Yapp suggested the building, the eastern side of which once served as a stable/livery, “may also be one of the oldest structures in Hannibal.” According to information at the Hannibal Free Public Library, a “large livery stable” featuring 150 horses, did occupy the site.
While the site may have historic roots, City Manager Jeff LaGarce suggests it isn’t a good fit in the historic district.
“We’ve felt the car dealership building is incompatible with the historic district; this has been expressed to me by countless people since I arrived here six years ago,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Courier-Post. “While the site has been well-kept, its never been viewed as a complimentary asset in the historic district, whose architecture otherwise possesses a consistent 19th century theme.”
In agreeing to pay $220,000 for the property, LaGarce says the city has “no real interest in the building.”
“Our interest was in developing a site plan to mix green space with attractive parking, internal landscaping, quality signage, perhaps a ‘Welcome Sign’ and unique kiosk for downtown visitors and tour bus parking,” said the city manager, explaining a “hybrid plan” will be developed so the site can serve as a “downtown fairgrounds” for events and provide parking for visitors and tour buses.
“We also felt this site may accommodate many traditional Main Street special events, allowing the opportunity to remove some events from the street to this fairgrounds site,” added LaGarce. “Proximity to downtown merchants remains excellent, yet without the need for regular street closures, and constant inconveniences communicated to us by merchants when streets are closed.”
LaGarce stresses the city’s plans for the property are not set in stone.
“The city is willing to listen to alternative plans, as we have not yet developed a site plan,” he wrote.
Yapp appreciates the opportunity to discuss the building’s future.
“I’m gratified that our city manager is willing to sit down and talk about it,” he said.