City, county re-evaluating Sphar project

With bids to restore and repurpose the Sphar Building in either side of $3 million, city officials are considering their options on the project.

The city has been working for a couple of years to turn the former seed warehouse at North Main and Depot streets into a welcome center, office space and more and secured grants and pledges of nearly $2 million for the work.

Earlier this week, the Winchester Board of Commissioners decided to discuss the situation with the Clark County Fiscal Court and the Greater Clark Foundation before making a final decision. Winchester City Manager Matt Belcher said those two entities are the other major stakeholders in the project. The county received a $500,000 community development block grant for the project and the foundation made a financial commitment.

“It’s just a matter of what the partners want to do,” Belcher said.

At this point, there are three options, Belcher said: find another $1 million or so to complete the project as designed, scale the project back to stabilize the building and forego the $1 million state Transportation Enhancement grant, or demolish the building and fill and grade the property.

According to meeting minutes given to the city commissioners, the city would have to pay the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet 80 percent of the design fees, currently estimated at $68,000, plus the cost of demolition and finishing the lot. In the meeting minutes, that could cost up to $150,000.

Construction estimates presented to the city in 2017 called for about $2 million for construction. The latest round of bids came in at $2.89 million and $3.64 million.

The commission plans to make a decision during its Nov. 20 meeting, he said.

Regardless of the commission’s action, the building is in perilous shape.

“Who knows what this winter will bring?” Belcher said. “We’ve already has two roof collapses this year. We’re somewhat concerned it may not make it through the winter.”

Plans call for th 137-year-old, 27,000 square foot building to be developed into a welcome center and offices for tourism, chamber of commerce industrial development and Main Street Winchester, among other potential uses.

The city purchased the building in 2014 for $100,000 after it fell into disrepair and accrued a number of code violations.

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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