Category Archives: News

H.U.D. Secretary Ben Carson tours Recovery Point of Charleston


The opioid epidemic in West Virginia continues to grab the attention of those in the nation’s capital. On Monday, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was in town to help shine a national spotlight on the issue in an effort to find answers.

“Our citizens are our most precious resource. We have to treat them like that. We have to do everything we can to bring them to their maximum potential,” said Carson.

Hearing stories of recovery from those who have battled addiction proves to be a driving force for Carson, who serves on President Trump’s interagency task force dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis.

“This could happen to anyone. I bet there’s no one here who doesn’t have someone in their circle who has been impacted,” said Carson.

On Monday, Carson joined U.S. lawmakers to tour three drug rehabilitation facilities in Huntington and Charleston, including Recovery Point.

“I was the hopeless person you see walking along the street. That was me 19 months ago,” said Erica Bregg, a peer mentor supervisor at Recovery Point.

The 92-bed program provides hope for women like Tiffanie Tompkins and Bregg, offering long-term recovery services.

“Along the way, something just clicked,” said Tompkins. “It’s peer driven. We all relate to each other, we all help each other, we’ve all been through the same things.”

“We do all of the maintenance, we do all of the cooking, we do all of the laundry, we run the whole facility,” said Bregg.

Those components of success are what Carson wants to take with him back to Washington.

“Secretary Carson is here for all of the right reasons – to talk and to see about what’s working – the best practiced examples,” said Representative Evan Jenkins.

Tompkins and Bregg are just two of Recovery’s success stories. Both are currently enrolled in an internship program with Congressman Alex Mooney and are looking ahead to the future.

“When I look at the people here, I see incredible results,” said Carson.

“No one has gotten more results – percentage wise – than Recovery Point. Even though it’s a little different than what the so-called professionals want, you’ve gone down your own path and had better results,” said Senator Joe Manchin.

Carson also visited Rea of Hope, Harmony House, and Charleston’s HUD field office.

Recovery Point of Charleston Grand Opening

By: Aaliyah Brown

For Toni Pantoja recovery point was her last chance at a better future. “I know when I got out of prison recovery point just saved my life. I probably would have been back out on the streets committing crimes and strung out on drugs again if it wasn’t for Recovery Point and the staff here.”

And now she has a place to really call her own. “it’s beautiful, so many people that pay thousands of dollars and don’t get an apartment as nice as that,” said Pantoja.

This is Recovery Point’s third location, this one in Charleston. And like the others, it provides a safe haven and new beginning to people like Toni who have struggled with addiction.

The facility has 24 one bedroom apartments for women recovering from substance abuse and is the first housing facility dedicated to just women. Pantoja couldn’t be more grateful for this opportunity.

Recovery Point follows AA’s 12 step program and believes that recovery is possible based on unconditional love and personal accountability. “it’s like a dream come true, it’s truly God answering my prayers Recovery Point saved my life.”

One condition is that residents are asked to pay some of their room and board, but even so residents like Toni appreciate that Recovery Point gives them a chance at survival. “they loved me when I couldn’t love myself.”

Aaliyah Brown 13 News Working for You.

Sutton School Apartments holds open house for community

Fayette County Courthouse restoration reveals architectural jewels. Take a look.



A non-original drop ceiling that was once on the top floor has been removed, exposing the rafters. The walls on that floor will be finished but the ceiling will remain exposed, Wiedemann said.




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.)