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Springfield buys Mars Theatre
Group still plans to bring new life to old theatre
11.20 mars 1
Springfield City Council agreed to buy the old Mars Theatre from the Springfield Revitalization Corporation for almost $95,000. A restoration effort on the old theatre is under way. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

The Springfield City Council approved the purchase of the Mars Theater building at a special called meeting on Tuesday.

Council members agreed on a resolution that specified the purchase was to create a public space for recreation and education for the residents of Springfield. The city is paying $94,552.61 for the old theatre.

City Attorney Hillary Burns said there had been slight changes in the wording of the document. The resolution also contained a lease agreement for the Springfield Revitalization Corporation, which owned the building, to rent the Mars from the city.

“The major difference was the SRC would be responsible only for hazardous activities that they themselves were responsible for or aware of,” Burns said. “They disclosed any sort of hazardous material or hazardous activity.”

She also said the SRC was told there is asbestos in the insulation and a possibility of lead in the original paint.

“That’s all they know at this time,” Burns said. “We could get an environmental study done as a precursor to this, but I believe the council felt we kind of know what we’ve got over there, and everybody kind of figured there was asbestos in the insulation and sure there was lead paint.

“All of that will be resolved when the renovation gets going. There are a lot of provisions in the lease about that sort of hazardous material.”

There were questions on the removal of possible hazardous material and who would bear that responsibility.

“Did anyone get a cost on that?” asked Mayor-elect Jeff Northway. “It’s very expensive, depending on to what extent there is there.”

Council member Jeff Ambrose said it would be required by the restoration. Rick Lott with the SRC said the group already has cost estimates on the roofing.

“The lead paint issue I had not heard before, but it’s certainly likely given the age of the building,” Lott said. “All of these things are going to be addressed in the upcoming work, and of course, we’re going to take that work on as we get funding.”

Lott said the intent was that the cost of the hazardous material removal during renovations would not come back to the city.

City Manager Brett Bennett said the removal would be part of the renovation, regardless of who owns the building. Lott said the SRC understands that with this type of project it’s difficult to determine the exact cost. He said getting a quote on the roofing won’t come until the contractor takes the current roof off and sees how much wood needs to be replaced.

“We understand with a building like this we’re going to run into surprises as we go along,” Lott said.

The first phase of the Mars Theatre renovation is scheduled to include new roofing and the blocking of existing gaps in the walls. Renovations to the lobby will include making one restroom compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The council plans to vote on the lease agreement for the Mars Theater at its next meeting on Tuesday and also will vote on a proposed millage rate.