It used to be a combination music and auto supply store in 1909. Then, in 1915, a harness shop.
Up above, people lived.
But for years, the downtown commercial building at 205 N. Wilson Ave. has stood vacant and fallen into some disrepair. Tuesday night, the Jefferson city council approved the city’s acquisition of the building’s deed — as well as $5,000 from the former owners for rehabbing — making the property the first from the recent Empty Building Tour to be acquired.
The city will work with Jefferson Matters: Main Street to use the $5,000 — a requirement of the acquisition negotiations — to renovate the building before putting it back on the market.
“What we were concerned about is a building that’s a smaller size like that, literally you could just put it on Craigslist and sell it,” City Administrator Mike Palmer said. “You end up with a building that just has storage in it. This is more proactive; let’s get this building, make it a Main Street project, historically renovate it a bit with the seed money, tighten it up and get it back on the market so it can have good use.”
The building is one of seven that were featured on the recent Empty Building Tour, said Peg Raney, program director for Jefferson Matters: Main Street.
“The Empty Building Tour gave an opportunity for people to go inside and see the conditions and see the possibilities,” she said. “The Main Street program is all about historic preservation. That’s what it’s built on.”
The tour, held April 16 and 18, showed several downtown buildings to more than 70 people — residents, businesspeople and developers from Jefferson, Greene County and throughout the state. Main Street has additional packets with information about the buildings available for those interested in them, Raney said.
Main Street is in the process of speaking to people interested in some of the other properties, but this is the first building from the tour to be acquired, she said.
Jefferson Matters: Main Street will work with the city on the building’s design and the historic preservation aspects of the project. A market analysis diagnosing commercial gaps in the community could also help identify the type of business that would thrive in the space, Raney said. She added that she hopes to see the building’s upper level used again for housing.
“I feel like this is a good way for us to start off with some development in our downtown area,” Raney said.
The building is part of the Bud Nelson estate and was being handled by his family members, most of whom live out of town, Palmer said.
“I think it was in their interest to get it fixed, in good conscience,” he said. “They didn’t want to leave a mess here in town.”
The 1,133-square-foot building was built between 1894 and 1909, Raney said.
Its foundation and structure are good, Palmer said. Repairs will include fixing a roof leak and completing brickwork. The windows on the front of the building could also be restored.
“It is a pretty building,” Palmer said. “We’ll maybe take the vinyl siding off and see what we have underneath there.”
Palmer said he hopes that even slight improvements to the building will help to attract a buyer.
“We want to get it so we can do something with it and get it back on the market,” he said.
“We’re not there to make money or anything. We’ll just use it as an example of what can be done between a public-private partnership.
“It’s kind of unique. Taking it on the way we are, we’ll make it productive again.”