The Bushnell Building combines a rich history with a thriving future

In recent years, the continued revitalization of Downtown Springfield has been readily visual in the growth and development of small businesses like Winan’s Coffee & Chocolates, Le Torte Dolci, COhatch and more planting roots among what were once vacant storefronts and buildings.

But the work to rebuild and revitalize Downtown as a great place to work, live and play has also involved the renovation and remodeling of some of the historic buildings.

One of those historic spaces is The Bushnell Building – built in 1893 and named after its builder Asa Bushnell, who was a Springfield native.

In the early 1900s, it’s tenants included a bank, a dry goods store, and the Masonic Temple. And, Harry Toulmin – an attorney for the Wright brothers who is memorialized with a statue near the fountains on City Hall Plaza – occupied office space from which he filed multiple patents for the famous flyers.

In it’s prime – and probably what the building is best known for – The Bushnell Building housed Wren’s department store, which was the largest shopping store in the city during the mid 1900s. The location operated as a department store until 1987.

“The building could not be duplicated,” says current building owner Jim Lagos. “The Main Street side is the largest public artwork in the region. The artisans in 1893 carved all of the 45 lions heads and the elaborate fleur-de-lis and the Greek key system and all the angels and flower and the arches and so forth.

“So in terms of a modern building you couldn’t really replicate it.”

In 1993 – 100 years from when it was first built – Lagos and his wife Nike invested in the historic Bushnell Building and began the restoration process.

The Lagos have spent more than 45 years dedicating their time to and energy to acquiring and restoring commercial real estate in the city, including office buildings, parking garages, apartment complexes, shopping centers, old industrial spaces, and more.

With the Bushnell Building in particular, the restoration was no small feat, says Lagos, as they worked to achieve a platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

LEED certification is the most widely used green building rating system in the world, and the highest level of certification is platinum.

“The platinum LEED certification wasn’t just for prestige, and it doesn’t deal just with energy savings – which is very, very important – or water savings – which is very, very important,” Lagos says. “It also deals with the working space where employees are.

“It also deals with daylighting – that’s a huge part of it. We designed the whole building to maximize daylighting.”

The Bushnell Building, says Lagos, was the second building on the National Historic Register in the state of Ohio to achieve platinum LEED certification.

Lagos says the renovation included replacing not only the façade of the building, but also about 200 windows. He says they were not only replaced with energy efficient products, but also planned out so that natural light could shine straight through from one end of the building to the other in many of the office spaces.

“The idea of renovating the building was you could give people a place to work that was totally unique and would make them want to come to work in the morning,” Lagos says.

And the building has done that. It now houses a restaurants, including Fountain on Main, Stella Bleu, and Season’s Kitchen, and a variety of businesses and organizations both large and small, including Junior Achievement of the Mad River Region, Code Blue, Gary Geis School of Dance, McCall Sharp Architecture, Konecranes, Clark Schaefer Hackett and more.

Though the spaces are located in a historic building, they are built out to meet the needs of each individual business or organization. Each space looks different, but the arched windows and original wrought iron throughout help retain the building’s historic flair.

“We’ve created several 100 jobs in the building, and that’s what it’s all about is creating jobs and giving them a place to work where they want to work,” Lagos says.

He also proudly shares that almost all of the renovation resources were local, from Springfield, Urbana and within the Miami Valley.

The building’s basement also boasts the newly renovated Bushnell Event Center, which includes three different event spaces that can host cocktail hours, wedding receptions, conferences and more.

“I’m sure you could build one cheaper than what we’ve done here,” he says. “But it would be a flat, wide-open space with no character.”

The event center rooms each showcase parts of the original building structure including exposed brick and stone work, historic lighting fixtures, and original window wells.

Lagos, who has been an attorney in Springfield for almost 50 years, says that for him, renovating the Bushnell Building was about more than saving a structure.
“It was personally important to me. There were a lot of good memories there,” he says.

He says he remembers riding the escalators in Wren’s when he was a young boy; he and Nike buying wedding bands on the fifth floor; buying his wife’s favorite perfume or suits for work – all in the building he has worked so hard to save and transform.

And the Bushnell Event Center’s venue manger Lisa Abshear agrees with the importance of preserving those memories for people in the community.

“On a personal level, going back to places that I knew my parents or grandparents might have been – it makes you feel like you’re following your ancestors,” Abshear says. “So, by Mr. Lagos preserving this place, people can get that sense of what it might have been like in 1893 or through the years.”
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Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.