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Roof stabilization program assists downtown development

BY CARRIE DILLARDcdillard@paducahsun.com

A five-story, historic building at 203 Broadway St. would not be standing if not for the city of Paducah.

Since the city began its roof stabilization assistance program in August 2013, two grants have been awarded, totaling more than $130,000. Eligible properties must be within the downtown district as defined by the city ordinance. Owners must provide three estimates from contractors who are prequalified by the city and should state the urgency of their need.

After July 1, the city will begin accepting applications for the next cycle of grants.  Planning director Steve Ervin said the city looks to find two to four additional recipients to help in the next fiscal year. Pending approval of this year's city budget, Ervin said there will be $56,000 for grants in 2015.

"We hope to provide an opportunity for developers to make the needed repairs," he said, "and to save the historic resources in downtown. They are hard to replace."

Tom Dunn of Benton, owner of 203 Broadway, admittedly would have walked away from the rehabilitation project if not for the grant awarded to him in September 2013 in the amount of $100,000.

"I would've lost my deposit and thought I was better off, if not for the city of Paducah."

Dunn thanked the city earlier this month for their assistance by submitting a letter to Mayor Gayle Kaler and the Paducah City Commission.

"I was the recipient of the first roof stabilization grant from the city of Paducah," he said via letter. "I want to express my appreciation for (their) help in the ongoing restoration at 203 Broadway."

Dunn purchased the building in July 2013, one month before the roof stabilization assistance program even started. His grant was approved in September 2013.

The amount of funding that Dunn received was significantly larger than most other grants will be, Ervin said, because of the imminent threat his building posed to neighboring buildings if it collapsed. 

The total construction estimate, because of the amount of structural damage and roof deterioration that existed, was $250,000.

"It was almost an emergency situation at that time," Ervin said. "It was close to collapse and then it did collapse" during an ice storm on Dec. 9, 2013.

But even before the storm, the roof was already in serious disrepair, said Mark Fogelsong of Atlas Roofing.

"There was major water damage and it was on its way to collapsing," he said. "There are several buildings in downtown like that."

According to Fogelsong, A&K Construction, which was also hired by Dunn for the project, had just finished installing scaffolding on the fourth floor before the ice storm hit that evening. Three days later, the roof had come down three or four feet and, the day after that, it collapsed.

"Part of the roof went through the general store (on the second floor)," Fogelsong said. "A lot of these buildings downtown are tied together, share walls. (The scaffolding) probably saved the buildings around it."

Atlas Roofing and A&K Construction completed the re-roofing project in about two months, including shoring up most of the fifth floor.

"It costs a lot of money to do these buildings, more than people realize," Fogelsong said. "He (Dunn) didn't get a free ride. He stepped up and got this building under roof. A lot of people do walk away; he could've walked away, and didn't."

When Dunn purchased the building, he and his wife, April, had just spent a week in Charleston, S.C., walking along the downtown streets and admiring the historical properties. He caught the renovation "bug," he said.

"They (Alexander Real Estate and Auction Company) were holding an auction on a building in Paducah the same day as we were driving home. I had noticed it in the paper," Dunn said. "I told my wife I was just going to call about it, ask questions."

He bought it over the phone for $55,000.

"I bought it sight unseen," he said of 203 Broadway. "It made for a long ride home from Charleston."

Dunn remembers the building from when he was a child. "When I was a kid, it was an old hardware store. I thought it was a neat, old building," he said.  Most recently, it was an antique mall."

Dunn said one of his primary goals for the Broadway property is to build condos in the upper three floors. Each floor would be accessible by an exterior door on Broadway and an elevator.

"This is the perfect spot. The views only get better as you go higher," he said.

Dunn believes tenants will only help to draw in a perspective, commercial buyer for the lower two floors.

"I hope to sell it to a restaurant, a really family-affordable restaurant," he said.

To date, there has been only one other roof stabilization grant recipient besides Dunn. According to Ervin, the second grant recipient, Jorge Martinez, received a 50 percent match, or $30,175, for the Tribeca Inn project on Kentucky Avenue. The total cost of the Tribeca roofing project was $60,350.

"Both are major reinvestments into downtown," Ervin said. "From this, we will have new retail opportunities, new jobs and new living spaces."

Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.

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