Category Archives: News

Horse returns to old Courthouse

Versailles School Apartments to host Grand Opening Dec. 8

November 30, 2016 Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

AU Associates, a company responsible for repurposing the former Versailles
Elementary School into an apartment building, will host a grand opening on
Thursday morning, Dec. 8, beginning at 11:30.

124 Macey Ave. | Versailles | Kentucky

The grand opening program will feature speaker former Kentucky first lady Libby Jones as well as a history of the building, most recently Woodford
County Public Schools’ Community Education Center.

The open house will give former students, teachers, and other community members- as well as anyone interested in living here-an opportunity to tour Versailles School Apartments…..

To read more of this article, head over to:


The public forum will explore the potential impacts of place making design, how intentional
redevelopment and infill can create more vibrant downtowns in Versailles and Midway, and the
importance of balancing future development with farmland conservation in Woodford County.

Woodford County, Kentucky (September 16, 2016) – Woodford Forward is pleased to
announce that it will convene a panel of experts at a public forum on infill,
redevelopment, place making and farmland conservation in Downtown Versailles, on
September 29, 2016.

Woodford Forward is a group of citizens and business owners that advocate for
innovative policies that promote the highest and best use of urban land and the
agricultural use of productive farmland throughout Woodford County.

As part of its community education and outreach work on land use issues, Woodford
Forward has partnered with Bullhorn Creative on Physical Education Part III – A
Discussion on Urban Development in the Bluegrass, the third in an annual series of
panel discussions on urban revitalization. Forum panelists will present their experiences
with prior successful projects and initiatives that focused on the revitalization of
downtown environments, place making, and farmland conservation. The forum provides
an opportunity for citizens to see and hear presentations from a panel of experts in
urban planning, architecture, engineering, place making, and farmland conservation, as
well as local officials.

Panelists at Physical Education Part III include engineer Marshall Elizer from Gresham,
Smith and Partners in Louisville, Rebecca Burnworth, Architect of Burnworth Design,
PLLC in Lexington, Land Project Counsel Ashley Greathouse from Bluegrass
Conservancy in Lexington, Holly Wiedemann, founding principal and President of AU
Associates, Holley Groshek, Executive Director of the Equine Land Conservation
Resource, and Regan Martin and Graham Kain from the SPARK Versailles project.

The public forum will be held at the Safe Harbor Academy at 134 Macey Avenue in
Downtown Versailles. There will be a reception at 5:30 p.m. provided by Chef Ouita
Michel of Holly Hill Inn and the panel discussion will begin at 6:30 p.m.

This education and outreach event was planned in response to a 2015 Woodford County
community survey that was completed by The Matrix Group and sponsored by Woodford
Forward. Two top priorities of the survey results were redeveloping vacant land and
property within the urban service areas and protecting key agriculture areas from

“Revitalizing our urban cores in Versailles and Midway and conserving key agricultural
areas in Woodford County from development go hand in glove. These priorities are keys
to making Woodford County a vibrant destination for young professionals, families,
retirees and entrepreneurs-to live, work and locate businesses here. These are primary
focus areas of our organization.” said Billy F. Van Pelt, II, CEO. Woodford Forward has
posted the survey results on its web site,

The public is encouraged to attend the event and should RSVP on Eventbrite at

Date & Time
September 29, 2016
5:30 Reception, 6:30 Panel Discussion
Safe Harbor Academy
134 Macey Avenue
Versailles, KY 40383
Physical Education is an ongoing project by Bullhorn Creative, a Kentucky-based
branding and creative firm.
For more information, please contact Billy F. Van Pelt, II, Woodford Forward CEO at or at 859-846-4033.

Old building, new uses: bourbon bar, restaurant, offices

Courthouse plan a brilliant solution to a vexing downtown problem


MAY 24, 2016

$30 million renovation saves a landmark and gives it new, financially viable uses
Restaurant, bourbon bar, event space will make it again a hub of public activity
Design and construction team are among the best at rehabilitating old buildings

Architect’s rendering of plans for renovation of the old Fayette County Courthouse. This shows the top-floor event space atrium, looking up into the restored dome. The building was one of Lexington’s first to have electric lighting, and this plan restores the original decorative light positions in the dome and surrounding balcony. K Norman Berry Associates/Deborah Berke Partners

Architect’s rendering of plans for renovation of the old Fayette County Courthouse. This shows the top-floor event space atrium, looking up into the restored dome. The building was one of Lexington’s first to have electric lighting, and this plan restores the original decorative light positions in the dome and surrounding balcony.

The plan unveiled Tuesday for renovation of the old Fayette County Courthouse is brilliant in many ways: It preserves one of Lexington’s most iconic buildings, it gives it new life and purpose, and it seems to be financially sound.

The project shows what can happen when Lexington leaders look for ambitious and creative — rather than cheap and expedient — solutions to a problem, and then hire top-notch professionals to get it done.

Holly Wiedemann, whose Lexington-based AU Associates has repurposed nearly 30 historical buildings for commercially viable uses over the past 25 years, is managing the project along with Barry Alberts of CITY Properties Group, which has done the same thing in Louisville, including the Glassworks district and Louisville Slugger Museum.

The courthouse’s new interior is the work of architects K. Norman Berry Associates of Louisville, which did the stunning new Speed Art Museum addition, and Deborah Berke & Partners of New York, whose work includes 21C Museum Hotel projects in Lexington andLouisville.

The circa 1900 courthouse, which was shuttered in 2012 because lead paint contamination made it an unsafe home for the Lexington History Museum, is one of this city’s most abused and neglected buildings. But by spring 2018, the $30 million renovation plan should make it a beautiful landmark and a hub of activity once again.

Lexington chef Ouita Michel, founder and owner of five popular restaurants, will be the ground floor’s largest tenant. Her sixth restaurant will be similar to the casual Windy Cornernorth of the city, which emphasizes local food at moderate prices.

Michel’s restaurant will use original outdoor terraces around the courthouse for dining space, as will a bourbon bar in the courthouse’s east front corner. Also on the ground floor will be a visitors center, with a tour bus loading zone on Upper Street.

The first floor will house VisitLex offices, while the second floor will become Breeders’ Cupheadquarters, which are now in a suburban office park. The city will lease the top floor as event space that exposes the courthouse’s historic dome and gabled roof 56 feet above the floor. A private company will operate it.

All of this commercial space will be leased at market rates, proving revenue to make the building’s renovation and continued operation viable. About $8 million of the renovation is coming from state and federal historic preservation tax credits.

The renovation is expensive, because much work on the Richardsonian Romanesque-style building will require artisan labor. Other up-front costs include energy-saving technology, such as insulated windows and geothermal heating and cooling, which will reduce long-term operating costs.

This plan follows the same philosophy of Berke’s beautiful renovation of 21C Museum Hotelnext door in the old First National Bank building: It preserves what historic fabric remains, while giving other spaces a clean, compatible new look.

There wasn’t much historical material left inside the courthouse, beyond some wood paneling in a courtroom that will be reused in the bourbon bar. The rest was stripped out and destroyed as part of a hideous modernization in 1960.

One major architectural element that was lost was a Y-shaped staircase of marble, iron and wood. A contemporary version of it will be re-created with details echoing the original, such as a wooden handrail and simulated pickets in glass side panels.

Luckily, the 1960 modernization didn’t destroy the historic dome. It was sealed up as a place to house HVAC equipment. This renovation will restore the dome and the electric twinkle lights in and around it, which were some of the first electric lights installed in Lexington.

The equestrian weather vane that stood atop the dome for decades until it was damaged in a 1981 storm will be restored or re-created.

Fire codes wouldn’t allow re-creating the original 105-foot atrium, which went from the ground floor to the dome. But that transparency will be simulated with glass floor panels in the first- and second-floor ceilings below the dome.

The restored dome and exposed gabled roof should make for some stunning event space, which will hold as many as 300 people and be open to all caterers.

“There is no space in Lexington like this,” Wiedemann said. “It is just going to be magnificent.”

The old courthouse square was a center of Lexington life from 1788 until a dozen years ago, when the courts moved to bigger quarters down the street. After that, neglect turned this block into a black hole.

Great cities are known by their great buildings. This is one of Lexington’s great buildings, and I am thrilled to see it coming back.

Work on Versailles School Apartments ahead of schedule

By Bob Vlach
Woodford Sun Staff

A ROOM NEAR THE MAIN ENTRANCE of Versailles School Apartments will become an office for its manager. Former classrooms are being converted into one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments in a South Main Street building formerly occupied by the Woodford County Community Education Center and Versailles Elementary School. (Photo by Bob Vlach)


The transformation of a former school building at 299 South Main Street in downtown Versailles into a 13-unit apartment building is ahead of schedule, according to the director of development for AU Associates, Inc.

During a site visit with The Sun last Thursday afternoon, April 14, Johan Graham said the AU Associates project should be finished and ready for leasing as early as Halloween – and not Thanksgiving as he told The Sun in February.HVAC system work

Graham said upfront architectural work led to few surprises during interior demolition, which also allowed construction workers to move ahead with framing the interiors of five one-bedroom, four two-bedroom and four three-bedroom apartments. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing installation work is also underway, he said. Jessey Taulbee, of Green Box Heating & Air, pictured, worked on a one-bedroom, basement apartment. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

In addition to having large photos and artwork in hallways to remind tenants and visitors that this apartment building was once Versailles Elementary School, built-in bookshelves will remain in classrooms being turned into apartments.

Tall ceilings and large windows from the building’s years as a school are also being preserved in living areas of apartments during this adaptive reuse. Hardwood floors are being refinished, and terrazzo flooring and ceramic wall tile in hallways are being preserved as well.

“That’s kind of the beauty of (this adaptive reuse),” said Graham, “people will always know” this was historically a school. He said AU Associates wants its adaptive reuse projects, including Versailles School Apartments, “to be historic and charming, but you want it to be livable too.”

To meet those needs, apartments have stackable washers and driers as well as kitchens equipped with stoves, refrigerators and dishwashers.

An open house around Halloween will allow former students and other community members to celebrate this adaptive reuse while touring Versailles School Apartments, according to Graham.

“You want to thank your community partners for letting us do something like this,” he said.

Low-income housing credits sold to investors, coupled with federal and state historic tax credits are funding construction costs of about $2.7 million, according to Graham.

He said families living in Versailles School Apartments will earn less than 60 percent of the mean income locally, which equates to about $24,000 for a single-person household and $29,000 for a two-person household (individuals earning $10 to $15 per hour).

“We’re not a government housing project so people will have to pay the rent that’s advertised – it’s just the rent that’s advertised is meant to meet those income requirements,” explained Graham. He said the long-term housing credits subsidize construction costs so AU Associates does not have to carry a heavy debt load on the project, which lowers the rent for apartments. A criminal background check for anyone interested in leasing an apartment and a secure-entry system will help ensure a safe community, he added.

The Woodford County Board of Education sold the aging school building at 299 South Main Street (most recently occupied by the Community Education Center) to AU Associates for $74,000. Founded by Holly Wiedemann in 1990, AU Associates has created over 350 units of mixed income housing, 100,000 square-feet of commercial space and over $50 million of projects across Kentucky and West Virginia, according to its website.

In 2000, AU Associates transformed an aging school building on South Winter Street near downtown Midway into Midway School Apartments.

(This article was published in the April 21, 2016, issue of The Woodford Sun, Versailles, Ky., and is used with permission.)


President Of AU Associates, Inc. Holly Wiedemann Inducted into Junior Achievement’s Bluegrass Business Hall Of Fame

2016 Bluegrass Business Hall of Fame

Inductees Announced


On Thursday evening, May 26th, 2016 the following individuals will be inducted into Junior Achievement’s Bluegrass Business Hall of Fame:  William Stamps Farish III, DeWitt T. Hisle and Holly B. Wiedemann. 
Holly Hall Of fame
Since 1989, Junior Achievement’s Bluegrass  Business Hall of Fame has annually recognized the esteemed leaders of the Central Kentucky business community.  To be considered as a Hall of Fame member, an individual’s record of business achievement must demonstrate:Courageous thinking and actions; vision and innovation; business excellence; inspiring leadership; and community mindedness. In addition, nominees must serve as a role model for our youth.  Stated more simply, Bluegrass Business Hall of Fame members are individuals whose work has moved the Central Kentucky in a better, stronger position. Join us in celebrating these laureates whose leadership has made the Bluegrass community such a special place to live and work.  Your generous contribution will help underwrite this wonderful evening and enable us to honor these individuals in a special way.  Corporate and individual sponsorship of this event is a major contribution to our success and reinforces to the community your belief in the importance and mission of Junior Achievement.  Thank you for your consideration of our request and for your continuing support.  


“Empower a Student to Own Their Future Economic Success”
Our thanks to the following companies that are participating as Silver Sponsors for the 2016 event:
Forcht Bank Logo
For information regarding 2016 sponsorship opportunities, please click below for more information or email Lynn Hudgins, or Sheila Vaughn,, at the Junior Achievement office, 219-2423.
Junior Achievement of the Bluegrass
859-219-2423 PHONE
1-877-396-2101 FAX



Versailles School Apartments Project

Former school being turned into apartment building

Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff | February 10, 2016

Efforts to transform a former school building into a 13-unit apartment building have begun, and should be finished by Thanksgiving, according to a spokesperson for AU Associates, Inc.

“From the street view, it will look very much like a school still,” explained Johan Graham, director of development for AU Associates. “There won’t be many noticeable differences on the exterior.”

On the interior, classrooms are being turned into modern apartments, with one-, two- or three bedrooms, he said. The affordable housing units will include washer/dryer hookups and kitchen appliances.

Before tenants move into Versailles School Apartments, people in the community will have an opportunity to see inside the building and celebrate a private-public partnership that led to the historic school being preserved for an adaptive reuse.

The Woodford County Board of Education sold the aging school building at 299 South Main Street in Versailles (most recently occupied by the Community Education Center) to AU Associates last year for $74,000.

Low-income housing tax credits sold to investors, coupled with federal and state historic tax credits are funding construction costs of about $2.7 million, Graham said.

Construction on Versailles School Apartments began about a month ago and workers are currently removing old partitions, floors and mechanical systems, Graham said.

“Most of those ugly, modern details on the inside are coming on out,” he said. “So the (building) shell’s in great shape. The historic (architectural) details and wood are in great shape too. So once you kind of strip it down to its base elements, it’s actually a pretty sturdy structure.”

He said construction workers should begin framing the apartment units in six to eight weeks. The installation of mechanical systems will happen next, he added.

After transforming this former Versailles school into an apartment building, AU Associates will manage and own Versailles School Apartments, Graham said. “It’s sort of like Midway (School Apartments). We’ve been there for 18 years,” he said.
Founded by Holly Wiedemann in 1990, AU Associates has created more than 350 units of mixed income housing, 100,000 square-feet of commercial space and over $50 million in projects across Kentucky and West Virginia, according to the nonprofit company’s website.

Contact: Johan Graham
Telephone: 859-233-2009

Read more:!Former-school-being-turned-into-apartment-building/cjds/56bbe8fe0cf2062bd41ea78b

Tom Eblen: Lexington developer turns Campton’s old school into affordable housing

FEBRUARY 14, 2016
The old Wolfe County High School, built by the WPA from 1937-42 using local sandstone, sat vacant for a decade and was damaged by a 2012 hail storm and vandals two years later. It has now been restored by Lexington affordable-housing developer Holly Wiedemann as the Campton School Apartments. Tom Eblen

The beloved Wolfe County landmark sat empty for a decade atop a hill overlooking town, slowly falling apart before everyone’s eyes.

Baseball-size hail broke windows and damaged the roof in March 2012, the same night a tornado destroyed much of nearby West Liberty. Two years later, teenaged vandals broke into the school and went on a rampage.

“If you hadn’t come along when you did, we would have lost this place,” J.C. Brooks told Lexington developer Holly Wiedemann as we walked through the former Wolfe County High School earlier this month.

The imposing three-story structure, built during the Great Depression from locally quarried sandstone, reopened Jan. 15 as the Campton School Apartments after Wiedemann organized a $3.9 million renovation.

The building now houses 13 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom apartments for adults 55 and older. Sixteen units have monthly rents of between $330 and $575 for low-income residents. One of the building’s first residents was once a teacher at the school; a former librarian has signed a lease for another unit.

“People are just in awe,” said Brooks, noting that more than 200 people filled the school’s old gymnasium for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “They can’t believe how beautiful it looks.

J.C. Brooks, right, showed Holly Wiedemann his class photo from 1961. Old school photos were used to decorate the building's halls.

J.C. Brooks, right, showed Holly Wiedemann his class photo from 1961. Old school photos were used to decorate the building’s halls. Tom Eblen

The renovation preserved most of the original hardwood floors; replaced windows with new, energy-efficient ones; replicated old five-panel doors and light fixtures and decorated hallways with original art and copies of old school photographs.

Brooks is a 1961 graduate of the school, and his grandfather helped cut stone for its construction. He and his brother, Wolfe County Judge-Executive Dennis Brooks, led a community effort to recruit Wiedemann to take on the renovation.

Wiedemann is president of AU Associates, which over the past 25 years has completed 28 projects in Kentucky and West Virginia to renovate beloved old buildings for new, economically viable uses.

The company has overseen $120 million worth of work that included more than 500 units of affordable housing — mostly apartments for seniors in small-town former school buildings — and more than 140,000 square feet of commercial space, Wiedemann said.

AU Associates’ projects involve a lot of community participation and a complex mix of state and federal tax credits for affordable housing and historic preservation, as well as grants, loans and private equity.

Wiedemann, whose ancestors started Wiedemann beer and Lexington’s old Purcell’s department store, said her business is rewarding, if not hugely profitable. But it is an economic model that works. AU Associates employs 30 people, including 15 who maintain and manage the 23 properties the company owns.

“We’ve never done any marketing; people just call us because they know I’m a sucker for old buildings,” Wiedemann said. “And we have done so many of these that we have figured out what works.”

AU Associates’ first project was the Midway School Apartments in Midway. Lexington projects include the First Presbyterian Church Apartments on Market Street and Parkside, an affordable-housing development built on the site of the old YWCA in Gardenside. AU Associates also is project manager for the old Fayette County Courthouse renovation.

Campton’s school was built between 1937 and 1942 as a federal Works Progress Administration project to provide public high school education in Wolfe County, which previously had only church-supported secondary schools.

The building was replaced by a new high school in 1968, but continued as an elementary and middle school until 1991, then as an elementary school until it was decommissioned in 2005.

About the time it became vacant, Wiedemann said she got a call from a woman in Jackson who wanted to meet. She told her there were two buildings in her area that needed saving: the Campton school and Jackson’s early 1900s federal building.

Wiedemann renovated the Jackson building into Federal Place Apartments in 2013. The following year, people in Campton approached her.

The Campton project included $1,965,277 in housing tax credit equity, $822,700 in federal and state historic tax credit equity, $650,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds and $500,000 from the federal HOME Investments Partnerships Program.

Some tax-credit equity was arranged with help from the Community Affordable Housing Equity Corp. A $1.4 million construction bridge loan came from Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises Inc. AU Associates has a 50-year land lease with Wolfe County on the property, with a 50-year renewal, and will manage it.

Lexington’s Churchill McGee Construction and Design managed the renovation. It is now finishing the last piece: the old gymnasium, which will become a county community center with sound and light equipment for concerts and plays.

“These projects happen because of people with a commitment to their community,” Wiedemann said. “We’re helping make their vision real.”


Campton School Apartments Press Release

Johan Graham, Director of Development
AU Associates, Inc.
Phone: (859) 233-2009


Ribbon Cutting Event to Celebrate the Grand Opening of The Campton School Apartments Project

CAMPTON, KY– AU Associates, Inc. proudly announces that an official Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will be held Friday, January 15th 2016 at 2 pm to celebrate the completion of The Campton School Apartments and Community Center. This dedication ceremony will take place at 166 Wolfe County Elementary Road, Campton, KY 41301. This project will bring 19 units of mixed-income senior housing to the City of Campton and Wolfe County, an area in desperate need of affordable housing options.

Originally built in 1942 to house the Old Wolfe County High School, this structure saw over 60 years of use as an educational institution and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Now, with a different purpose, it has been revitalized and adaptively reused to create the Campton School Apartments and Wolfe County Community Center. The building has been preserved in its original form and retrofitted with the most up-to-date amenities such as handicap access, convenient parking, and elevator service to all floors.

Confirmed guests of honor include Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers II, 97th District State Representative Hubert Collins, Kentucky Housing Corporation Executive Director J. Kathryn Peters, Federal Home Loan Bank Cincinnati VP of Housing and Community Development Herman Bowling, City of Campton Mayor Raymond Banks, and Wolfe County Executive Judge Dennis Brooks.

“This building is absolutely stunning and I’m thrilled that everyone was able to come together and create this wonderful project for the community,” says AU’s President Holly B. Wiedemann. “There are so many buildings in Eastern Kentucky with the same potential as the Old Wolfe County School Building. My sincere hope is that other areas will follow Campton’s lead and take similar steps to both preserve their local history and give new purpose to those structures.”

The project will feature 19 units of mixed-income senior housing, 13 one-bedrooms and 6 two-bedrooms. 16 of these units will be designated as affordable housing, the driving force behind most of AU Associates’ endeavors. These luxury apartments will come equipped with energy efficient appliances, central heating and air, modern interior aesthetics, and 24 hour access to the onsite fitness center.

The structure will also house the new Wolfe County Community Center. This center will feature a full-sized gymnasium, a stage with state-of-the-art lighting and sound technology, and will be capable of hosting large community functions with ease.

Work on The Campton School Apartments Project began in October of 2014 and is the latest project completed by AU Associates, Inc.  The Lexington-based company has already completed nearly two dozen developments since it was founded by Holly B. Wiedemann in 1990, four of which are also located in Eastern Kentucky.