The Columbus Historic Preservation Commission delayed any decision on whether to allow the demolition of the Lipscomb building downtown. The house and former law office is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
December 12, 2017 10:33:12 AM
If the sale of the Randolph Lipscomb property on the corner of Sixth Street and Third Avenue North is to be completed, the old house where the late Columbus attorney lived and practiced law will have to go.
It's the way the house will go that was the subject of Monday's meeting of the Columbus Historic Preservation Commission.
Attorney David Sanders, representing the estate of Lipscomb, who died in March, said a pending sale of the property to Lowndes County relied on the removal of the 125-year-old house, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
"(The county) stated adamantly that they don't want the house," Sanders said. "They want a clear lot."
The lot measures roughly 92,000 square feet.
Sanders said there were only three options for the house, two of which have been tried without result: Sell it to another buyer, have it removed from the property to meet the county's requirement or demolish the house at the estate's expense. Sanders said he had estimates of $7,500 and $9,500 for demolition of the house.
There have been three recent appraisals on the house -- two set the value at $190,000, the other at $200,000. In its Nov. 9 meeting, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors agreed to purchase the property for $190,000, contingent on the removal of the house, to possibly accommodate new courtroom space.
The commission must approve the demolition of the house, since it is listed as an historic place with the city's historic district.
Sanders, who is also the brother of Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders, said the circumstances allow for the demolition. He asked for a two-month moratorium on any commission decision, which was later amended and approved for three months.
"I'll point out that the statute that created this commission states very clearly that no commission may deny a certification of appropriateness for demolition if the denial of such a certificate would cause unreasonable economic hardship to the owner," Sanders said. "So the commission has to balance the public interest in protecting a historic home against the right of the owner's financial interests."
Sanders said the house has been for sale since April, but no offers have been made prior to the county's. He also said he had talked to Mark Alexander III about moving the house to a property he owned on the Southside.
"He did some looking to it and he got a quote that said it would cost $25 to $30 per square foot to move," Sanders said. "He called me last week and said that just wasn't economically feasible."
Based on those estimates, it would cost between $65,000 and $78,000 to remove the house.
"And that's just for moving it," Sanders said. "That doesn't include re-assembling the house at its new location."
Sanders asked the commission to help bring attention to the property by purchasing advertising, a request City Planner George Irby said was unlikely to be accepted by the city.
"It would put the city in the real estate business," Irby said. "I've often heard (city officials) say they don't want to be in the real estate business."
Commission member Chance Laws said placing a sign in front of the property explaining the circumstances might spark public interest.
"We did that with the Locke house, saying it was in bad shape and something had to be done," Laws said. "That seemed to work. Pretty soon after that, the house was renovated and it's beautiful now. Maybe we could do something like that."
Sanders said the estate wanted to work with the commission to find a solution other than demolition, but didn't rule it out as a distinct possibility.
"We would like to save the house, but the economic reality of the situation is we can't save the house ourselves. If you have ideas, we would love to hear them. But, quite frankly time is running out.
"The Lipscomb estate, without going into details, is not in the best financial shape," he added. "All the property the Lipscomb estate owns is mortgaged."
The commission will meet again March 5.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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