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.)