By Clint Confehr
Senior Staff Writer
An empty lot on West Commerce Street facing the main entrance to the Marshall County Courthouse is to be transformed next year in conjunction with plans developed by two students from O'More College of Design in Franklin, one of the owners said Monday.
"Johnny Chunn (president of Truette Construction Inc.) has the model and is trying to draft some engineering plans for it," former Lewisburg Mayor Bob Phillips said. "I talked with (welder) Wayne Demumbreum and he says he thinks he can build anything Johnny designs. I hope it works out."
Phillips and his wife, Faris, own the property that was purchased at an auction. It's become a recurring subject of discussion when people express interest in Lewisburg's public square and economic revitalization. O'More College has a summer course called Studio on the Square for students who are assigned to design interior and exterior redevelopments. Two of those students in the class here last summer were assigned to consider what might be done to improve the square by adding something to the Phillips' lot, alternately known as "Bob's hole."
"We are prepared to work with Bob and Faris Phillips for use of the lot and provide seed money," the Rev. Leland Carden, president of the Lewisburg Downtown Alliance, said on Thursday when the LDA held its monthly meeting in the '50s Ice Cream Shop and Restaurant.
"O'More students proposed a ghost building with a steel frame," Carden reported to the 10 people attending. "The framework will define the lot and what goes in there might possibly be a kiosk or a gazebo."
Brittany Scott and Evan Millard proposed a structure that could help the building uphill from the lot toward Second Avenue South. The building next door had been a shoe shop and it's had various tenants in recent months. The students suggested a restaurant for the adjoining building that might eventually expand onto the Phillips' lot for outdoor dining.
Carden has repeated another proposal that was among a variety of uses listed by the students: Movies might be projected on a screen hung in front of the lot's back wall. Carden saw an opportunity to paint the back wall so it could be the screen.
LDA received a $10,000 grant and Carden said some of the money might be spent on more specific designs for the property.
Demumbreum said he's waiting to see what the Phillips want to do.
Scott and Millard suggested a platform like a cat walk parallel to the second level of the old shop so that diners might eat on what might be seen as a balcony. Bob Phillips expressed concern for liability.
"From the design," he said, "it had an upstairs walkway around it, but I was concerned about liability there."
Still it seems clear that he is considering a development where there's been nothing but an empty lot and the occasional hot dog stand.
"It will be, sort of like a park; flat in the middle with 3-4 benches," the former mayor continued.
Asked about the prospective placement of a movie projector, Bob Phillips said, "I do want there to be plenty of outlets. I want it to be well lit, so that it can be used by somebody with better vision than I have.
"This is all with the O'More School of Design work," he said. "Johnny was going to call the school... This is something Johnny can do. Johnny suggested brick pillars" on which the steel would be mounted.
Asked if it might provide a steel frame for a building, Phillips replied, "I don't think so because this is just a front...
"One of the things that impressed me with what the students said was that they did not think it needed to be a building because there are enough buildings around the square that are empty," he said listing three other lots on or near the square.
Carden called the Phillips' willingness to generally follow plans developed by the students as "an exciting project" and it's apparently one of the reasons the O'More School's class, Studio on the Square, is probably going to be held here next summer.