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Habitat to demolish, rebuild at site of historic Spicer house in Willmar

Habitat for Humanity of West Central Minnesota, headquartered in Willmar, has purchased the locally known “John M. Spicer House,’’ at 515 Seventh St. N.W. in Willmar. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, but lack of funding to restore the house and vandalism at the property have left the house in disrepair. Habitat will demolish the house and build a new home there for a family. (Tribune photo by David Little)

WILLMAR — Officials of Habitat for Humanity of West Central Minnesota announced this week that the affiliate has purchased the locally known “John M. Spicer House,’’ at 515 Seventh St. N.W. in Willmar, from the Federal National Mortgage Association.

Fannie Mae, as the association is also known, procured the property from a foreclosure.

Habitat plans to demolish the house, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 13, 1986, but fell into disrepair due to a lack of restoration funding and also vandalism.

Habitat plans to build a new single-family home on this property within the next year. Officials say a family has already been selected for this project. Construction will begin when necessary funds become available.

Executive Director Joline Hovland said this is a special project for the Habitat affiliate.

“It’s a shame such a beautiful and historic landmark of the Willmar community has deteriorated beyond repair,’’ she said. “However, we are privileged to have an opportunity to give this property a rebirth.”

Habitat’s project will benefit the city, which has wanted to clean up the site for the past couple of years. The City Council in October 2012 ordered the owner to make exterior repairs to the building or have it demolished.

Hovland said the affiliate bought the property after being told about it by City Building Official Randy Kardell and Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services.

“In discussion with them, they suggested we look at it,’’ Hovland said.

The plan is to raze the existing structure this summer. For now, Habitat volunteers sealed the main floor windows and doors with oriented strand board. A crew will do clearing work prior to demolition in about two weeks.

Vreeman Construction of Willmar has agreed to tear down the house and level the ground for future construction at a discounted price. They have also agreed to complete the work with a minimal $7,000 down payment to pay for direct expenses. The $14,000 balance would be due later this fall.

Habitat is currently seeking donors to fund the demolition phase. Habitat is also accepting donations to construct the new house. The affiliate needs to raise 50 percent of the construction cost before work begins.

Tim Miller, Habitat sustainability coordinator, said the organization’s mission is to provide safe, simple, and affordable housing.

“We are blessed to have this opportunity to provide a home for a family with several children,” he said. “ … I would like to thank Vreeman Construction for their generous support. I hope others will join them.”

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150