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[Ashland] Sears Building renovations get the go-ahead

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I left Ashland about 2 1/2 years ago after living there for a few years. I knew a little about the project at the time and knew some of the people in city government. The start and stop cycle of the project repeated a few times while I lived there due to the Madden's and their consultants. Now they have reached the point that they are almost out of time on the approval they eventually got. I do hope it gets done, but I am skeptical.

It would be a shame to see the Sears building demolished. The loss of tall corner buildings like that changes the character and feel of the downtown so much. At one time a big cost was going to be replacement of the decorative trim to meet the Heritage Council's specifications. It's terrible what was done with the previous "updating". The decorative trim work stuck out too far when the panels were being installed, so the workers just broke off whatever was in the way.

It's somewhat short-sighted to take out the parking in the center (even though it wouldn't have been much) so more units can be built, assuming something will be done with the Sears building. With the previous plan there was concern about having enough parking and there was even a request a few years ago to reconfigure 17th Street and the adjacent sidewalk so there could be angled parking instead of parallel. Now they are taking away parking and increasing the demand by adding units. I don't like the sound of the part about the city securing parking for the development. The elected officials there have a habit of giving developers whatever they want and not getting anything in return. The result has been poor quality development and an unattractive city. Of course it is hard to entice developers to invest in an unattractive city unless you give them something, so it never ends.

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I left Ashland about 2 1/2 years ago after living there for a few years. I knew a little about the project at the time and knew some of the people in city government. The start and stop cycle of the project repeated a few times while I lived there due to the Madden's and their consultants. Now they have reached the point that they are almost out of time on the approval they eventually got. I do hope it gets done, but I am skeptical.

It would be a shame to see the Sears building demolished. The loss of tall corner buildings like that changes the character and feel of the downtown so much. At one time a big cost was going to be replacement of the decorative trim to meet the Heritage Council's specifications. It's terrible what was done with the previous "updating". The decorative trim work stuck out too far when the panels were being installed, so the workers just broke off whatever was in the way.

It's somewhat short-sighted to take out the parking in the center (even though it wouldn't have been much) so more units can be built, assuming something will be done with the Sears building. With the previous plan there was concern about having enough parking and there was even a request a few years ago to reconfigure 17th Street and the adjacent sidewalk so there could be angled parking instead of parallel. Now they are taking away parking and increasing the demand by adding units. I don't like the sound of the part about the city securing parking for the development. The elected officials there have a habit of giving developers whatever they want and not getting anything in return. The result has been poor quality development and an unattractive city. Of course it is hard to entice developers to invest in an unattractive city unless you give them something, so it never ends.

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http://www.dailyindependent.com/local/loca..._017230730.html

Demolition began Tuesday (Jan 16) on the three former JCPenny buildings between the Henry Clay Hotel and the Fields Furniture building (formerly Sears). The one-story structures were not historically significant and were quite blighted.

The original proposal was to install a surface parking lot with ornate iron on top of a low-rise brick wall. This was changed at the request of the city to 40 apartments.

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Madden housing plan gets moving

Notes --

1. A 40-unit, four-story building that feature one-bedroom apartments for low-income senior citizens will be constructed at the former J.C. Penny buildings which were recently demolished. Residents should begin moving in by December.

1a. The foundation will be poured soon. The exterior will blend in with the historic buildings on both sides. The building's walls will be preconstructed at a contractor's shop in Ashland, loaded up, and installed by a crane. This saves money and speeds up the construction process.

2. The Maddens have owned the entire south side of the 1700 block of Winchester Avenue since 1998, when they purchased the Henry Clay House. In 1990, they bought the Sears building, and in 1997, the J.C. Penny building.

3. The plan to renovate the Sears Building into low-income apartments for seniors (aged 55+) came to the drawing board after the businesses renting space in it went out of business.

3a. The Maddens applied for tax credits to help offset the cost of the project, and were awarded $416,000/year for 10 years. The credits were sold to the project's investor, The Richman Group Affordable Housing Corporation, based in Canton, Mass.

3b. The project was shelved when the construction costs were 'way over budget' after bidding last year. Hurricane Katrina drove up the construction costs of building materials. The Maddens also planned to use historical credits, but these came with additional requirements which drove up the cost even more.

3c. Because of that, the idea of constructing a new building between the Sears and Henry Clay House came to light. They were granted approval by the Kentucky Housing Corporation, and the design was drawn up by Sherman Carter Barnhart, a Lexington architectural firm.

3d. The Maddens is working with a Historic Preservation consultant, who is also on the Ashland Main Street committee, to restore the facade. Interior renovations are not planned at the time, although a retail tenant is sought for the 6,000 sq. ft. first floor.

Article information: "Madden housing plan gets moving, By CARRIE KIRSCHNER, Daily Independent [Ashland], April 29, 2007"

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