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Hotel of Terror owner seeks to let voters decide City of Springfield's eminent domain declaration

Hotel of Terror 2
Michele Skalicky
Supporters of letting the Hotel of Terror remain where it is gather in front of the business

City officials said the purchase of the building is necessary for daylighting of Jordan Creek.

Hotel of Terror owner Sterling Mathis is gathering signatures on petitions to try to prevent the City of Springfield from purchasing his building on Main Street downtown. If he gets enough valid signatures, the purchase of the property by the city through eminent domain could be put to a referendum vote in a future municipal election.

City spokesperson Kirsten Milam said in an email to KSMU that the referendum section of the city charter provides a means for that.

Mathis has worked at the haunted house, in a building constructed in 1914, since he was 16-years-old. He's 60 now.

"I just want to continue to be able to do what we've done and give Springfield a nice fun, safe place to come and have a good time," he said.

Springfield City Council voted in late February to approve eminent domain procedures that would allow the city to acquire the Hotel of Terror building.

Mathis is willing to sell the building. But he said the money the city has offered him — $550,000 — is not enough for him to move his business to another nearby building he owns.

"Before COVID, it would have been," he said. "I could've made it work, but since everything has tripled and quadrupled in price, what they're offering is just not going to work."

He said he just got a bid to replace the roof on his other building that came in at $375,000, and that's just one project that would have to be done to allow him to move the Hotel of Terror there.

Hotel of Terror and Jordan Creek
Michele Skalicky
Jordan Creek runs right alongside the Hotel of Terror building

The city wants to tear down the Main St. building to allow for repairs to an adjacent bridge over Jordan Creek and to make way for the daylighting of the creek, which was moved underground years ago.

Milam said "the city understands the owner's perspective, but wishes to avoid using tax dollars to pay more than a fair market price for the property." She said eminent domain was used in this case "to determine a fair market rate price."

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.