Excelsior Springs is seeking bids for its iconic historic building the Hall of Waters.
The city will be collecting proposals for the sale or lease of the historic building through May 23.
In the request for bids, the city is not only seeking new tenants but also new ideas for how the Hall of Waters should be used. The proposal request issued April 8 outlines a vision for the new ownership to implement “rehabilitation, reuse and maintenance” on the Hall of Waters, which was built in the 1930s.
The building currently houses the city’s offices and a court, both of which will be moved to a separate location.
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David Haugland, city manager, said retaining city services in the Hall of Waters is cost-prohibitive. For example, the current city facilities require a new heating and cooling system, which will come in at about $2.5 million in the current location.
The city has not yet received any proposals to buy or lease the building, Haugland said. He expects the majority of them to come in closer to the end of May.
Haugland said various would-be suitors have floated a range of reuse concepts when the sale of the Art Deco-style building remained just a possibility.
“We’ve heard different ideas over the years: a museum, different health and education opportunities,” he said.
The Hall of Waters Steering Committee, which formed to vet the plans, was formed in 2012.
The building’s original operations — offering mineral water for medical therapy and bottling — ceased in the 1990s. The proposal request notes “the Hall of Waters continues to tell the story of the development of Excelsior Springs like no other structure.”
The document asks for use proposals that are sensitive to the site’s existing historical artifacts. Continued public access is a must for the Hall of Waters’ new owner or lessee.
As the name denotes, the Hall of Waters’ raison d’être was the naturally occurring mineral water found on its site. The springs in the city reportedly had restorative effects for the city’s first settlers, who arrived in 1880.
In 1933, the city — then known as “America’s Haven of Health” — petitioned the federal government for a loan to build an expansive health resort that would be able to serve up to 300 patrons at once. Plans outlined a multi-story hydrotherapy center with a physical therapy pool, a bottling plant and numerous mineral baths.
The Federal Public Works Administration financed the $1 million construction cost.
The three-year construction period for the four-story T-shaped Hall of Waters started in 1936. Most of the structure is done in concrete, with an exterior of ashlar stone, carved limestone accents and exposed concrete. The building contains four levels above ground and a basement level.
The site was initially known as the Hall of Springs when it was partially opened in 1937. At its height of popularity, waters of the 10 main springs were piped into the longest mineral water bar in the world, and water was bottled and shipped all over the world.
The site’s popularity began to dwindle in the 1960s. As traffic declined, so did the facility’s ability to furnish bottled mineral water, and bottling stopped in the ‘90s.
The building was listed on the Clay County Historical Landmark Register in 1981 and added to National Register of Historic Places in June 1983.
The proposal request stipulates modifications or remodels on the Hall of Waters will require approval from both city council and the local Historic Preservation Commission.
The Hall of Waters’ unique place in Excelsior Springs’ history makes matching the sale with the right buyer and use a matter of high importance, Haugland said.
“(The Hall of Waters) is part of the city’s identity,” he said.