Building to be renovated

Friday, October 7, 2011

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

Interest is already being shown by potential tenants for a building that just changed hands on Lewisburg's public square.

Matthew Hopkins and his wife Julie had been in possession of 111 1st Avenue North, the building nearest the Bank of America, for just a week when he spoke about the building.

"It's been quite a week," Matthew said Monday. "I'm still trying to get a handle on it."

The building has housed a variety of businesses since it was constructed in 1908. Local residents who've stopped by to see what's going on recollect a pharmacy, a fabric shop, and a five-and-dime store. Most recently, it was a flower shop.

At one time, an upstairs room served as a post office, and still contains a safe.

"Do not take that safe across the floor," said Matthew, quoting what a structural engineer told him. The advice was to remove a window, and have the safe lifted out by a crane.

Right now, Matthew says his focus is on cleaning up and securing the building, and making it safe.

"That's a relatively large task right now," he said.

The sills of the upstairs windows, for instance, are rotted, so the windows could fall to the sidewalk below. Matthew says he's found out he needs permission from local government before the windows can be replaced.

The ground floor could be ready to use by Christmas time. A local caterer has already expressed an interest in using it for events including holiday parties.

Matthew's long-term intent for the building is to find one or more tenants. The upstairs could be office space, while downstairs has unlimited potential for a variety of uses.

"It's an odd little building, but I like it," Matthew said.

There's plenty of room. Matthew estimates the total square footage at 7,300, not counting the dirt-floored basement, where he found ledgers from the five-and-dime store.

He also found termite damage, so that was treated this week. There's also thought to be a crawl space above the second floor ceilings, but Matthew hasn't been up there yet.

A friend of Julie's from O'More College of Design will be helping them with ideas on how to renovate the building. One thing Matthew wants to do is remove the dropped ceiling to return the downstairs room to its full height, revealing the original pressed tin ceiling.

111 1st Avenue North is the largest building on the square to change hands in some time, and its renovation could be a major step towards revitalization of the downtown square.