By John Overby
Photos by Nick Schrager
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Robertson Building has large crowd for ribbon cutting ceremony.
There was a packed house during Friday’s ribbon cutting hoping to see firsthand the long-anticipated renovations of the historic 1896 W.K. Robertson Building.
It was originally constructed in 1896 as a dry goods store and served as a staple of downtown Springfield until the 1980s, the last time its facilities were used as a business.
The property, located on the corner of Main Street and Lincoln Park Road, was donated to the city in 2011, and plans were made immediately to help restore the historic building and put it back into use. Several ideas were discussed — everything from making it to an art studio to a coffee shop — but eventually, the decision was made to transform it into both an apartment complex and a commercial space.
An architectural report estimated that this type of renovation would cost approximately $1.8 million, so the city was forced to pursue grant funding in order to make the idea a reality.
Early efforts proved to be fruitless, as an initial application for a Community Development Block Grant was not successful.
This forced the city council to find alternate routes to secure the necessary money, such as a request for proposals, something it had successfully accomplished with the building that is now Mordecai’s On Main.
Two proposals were received by the city, and the project was awarded to Lexington-based AU Associates, Inc., pending a successful grant application with both the CDBG and HOME Investment Partnerships Program funding.
“AU has a stellar record of restoring historic properties and are exceptional at managing residential property,” city administrator Laurie Smith wrote in an email.
In turn, AU agreed to revert the commercial space and its income back to the city.
And the results of that partnership were on full display during the ceremony.
Several speakers, including Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Crit Luallen and Springfield Mayor Debbie Wakefield, made opening remarks on the ground floor of the commercial space area.
Luallen commended Springfield on its ability to “preserve what is best throughout the past” by completing this development plan.
“This is a community that really knows how to come together and make a difference,” she said. “It’s an amazing project because it does so many things. It will not only preserve this important corner, but it will now be the home for families who will move into these wonderful new apartments in this building.”
Wakefield noted that the excitement about the Robertson Building renovations were evident by looking at how many people were in the crowd, before adding that people often hear about what big cities are doing but small cities can “do many things.”
For her, this project proves just that.
“One of our best opportunities in the cities, especially in the small cities, is protecting and rehabilitating our historic buildings that we have in our communities,” she said. “While many main streets across the country are seeing a decline, we are very proud to say that this project, in renovating this 1896 historic building, has established … (even more) for our vibrant downtown.”
After finishing her speech, Wakefield called up Dr. John Cecconi, who was the mayor when the project was in its beginning stages and helped see it through until the end of his tenure last year, to the podium.
Together, they presented a gift — a painting of the building — to AU president Holly Wiedemann.
After an official ribbon cutting in front of the main entrance, attendees were encouraged to take a tour of the seven apartments that would be rented out.
AU is the property manager for the residential section of the building, while the city will manage the commercial space. A decision on what the commercial space will become will not be made until after all of the bids are submitted prior to the Thursday, Sept. 3, deadline.
For apartment rental info, contact AU at 859-233-2009, and for questions about commercial rental, contact City Hall at 859-336-5440.