Sphar plans coming this month

Published 11:18 am Monday, February 6, 2017

City officials will have their first look later this month at plans to refurbish the 136-year-old Sphar building.

For the last couple years, the city of Winchester, Clark County and The Greater Clark Foundation have worked together to try and obtain, stabilize and renovate the 27,000 square foot building at the north end of Main Street.

Last year, the city purchased the building for $100,000 with month pledged by the foundation. Architects were hired and progress is happening behind the scenes.

“The engineers are about 80 percent complete with the design phase of the project,” Winchester City Manager Matt Belcher said. The Winchester Board of Commissioners will see those plans during its Feb. 21 meeting, he said.

Between pledges and grants, there is nearly $2 million available for the project, he said. The first phase is to stabilize the building and make it sound.

Before the project can be advertised for bids, the plans must be approved by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Kentucky Historical Preservation Commission. The project received a $1 million transportation enhancement grant from the state, which requires a transportation-related component in the project. The building has also been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, he said.

“We hope to have a quick turn around,” Belcher said. “We anticipate advertising for bids in late spring or early summer.”

Being placed on the national register makes the project eligible for tax credits, which would generate additional funds for the project. Belcher said the state historical tax credits could bring up to $200,000 to the construction funds, or 10 percent of the project costs.

“That’s a big deal,” he said.

After the first phase of the project, there will be office space for a welcome center, Main Street Winchester, the industrial development authority, the chamber of commerce and the tourism office, he said. There will be plenty of space remaining for other uses.

“It is a good project,” he said.

The city was approached about buying the building in 2014 after it was vacant for several years and subject of multiple code violations.

The building was built in 1880 along the railroad line through downtown Winchester. It housed a seed business for many years and was a key player in the transportation through the region.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@bluegrassnewsmedia.com or call 859-759-0051.

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