- Associated Press - Saturday, December 23, 2017

ELWOOD, Ind. (AP) - Matt and Marty Spivey-Bevington would have loved to have restored the building they own at 116 S. Anderson St. in Elwood to its original glory.

“To do a complete restoration would be astronomical. To go back to the 1890s is not economically feasible,” said Matt Spivey-Bevington. He estimates it would have cost at least $30,000 to take just the exterior back to the 1890s.

And that would have been just for the work itself, he said.

“We’d be closed down for weeks in order to do that, too. I wish we had the time and the money to do that,” Spivey-Bevington said.

But after spending $45,000 to renovate it for their pet grooming business, the owners of 2 Guyz Boutique for Pets settled on the idea of a smaller-scale $8,000 project funded by a grant from the city’s Facade Improvement Program. That required only a 50-percent match of $4,000, money that came from an inheritance when his father, Dan Spivey, died last year.

Theirs was one of five projects funded by a $250,000 grant from the food and beverage tax distributed by the Madison County Council of Governments to the City of Elwood.

Elwood’s Facade Improvement Program is one of many attempts to preserve Madison County’s architectural heritage. They include the Glove Corp. building in Alexandria; the George Makepeace House at 5 W. Main St. in Chesterfield; and the State Theatre in Anderson.

Spivey-Bevington said the facade program is important to attracting visitors and new residents to Elwood.

“We’ve got to do something to help these buildings stand out. People are not going to come into a building that’s decrepit and worn out,” he said.

The Spivey-Bevingtons, who bought the building last year, started by removing the most obvious problem.

“There was an old metal awning from the 1950s that had issues,” he said. “I love the look without the awning. You can actually see the beauty of the building.”

But the most costly update was to the pink square-textured panels on the ground floor of the building, an attempt to bring the building into the 1950s, Spivey-Bevington said. The second floor is the original brick.

“The thing that hurt us the most is these panels each had to be polished 10 times to get all the schmutz off,” he said. “We tried to keep as much original look as possible,”

The Spivey-Bevingtons also replaced the door and framework in the entryway to the three-bedroom apartment they are restoring over the boutique. They imagine using the 1,700 square feet as community space or as an Airbnb rental.

“We were able to use the original tub and sink from the 1890s,” Spivey-Bevington said.

Elwood Mayor Todd Jones said facade renovation projects can entail any exterior improvements, from lighting to tuckpointing of bricks. There are no set limits on how much building owners can request, he added, because each investment is different, with some projects being more labor-intensive than others.

Proposals are reviewed by the Elwood Main Street Association, followed by the city’s building commissioner and finally, the Board of Works.

“The importance for us to renovate our uptown business district is to show people we are serious about the city, working our way from the inside out,” Jones said. “It’s the pride of our community. The uptown business district is the heart of our community.”

Maintaining Elwood’s historic business district is key to its future economic development, which includes attracting new companies, Jones said.

“If they see the buildings in disrepair, it gives the perception our community is moving in the wrong direction. Then, why would you want to move here?” he said.

Jones said having access to the grants allows building owners to devote money to other business-related needs, such as advertising or inventory.

“It was a win-win not only for the building owners but also for the community,” he said.

The goal, Jones said, is also to attract new residents who may want to live in apartments above some of the commercial buildings and to attract seniors to live in The Lofts at Leeson’s, which is under development by Jeffersonville-based New Hope Services.

The facade program also demonstrates the city’s commitment to saving its rich architectural heritage, which Jones expects eventually to be able to branch out to the side streets.

“Many of our residents grew up walking those streets and shopping those same stores,” he said.

Madison County Historian Stephen T. Jackson said many buildings in Madison County are endangered and in need of some TLC. He said it’s important to repurpose old buildings.

“If we didn’t, there would be nothing to leave for future generations to enjoy,” he said. “I would like someday to be able to show to my grandchildren places that were meaningful in their area. When they’re gone, they’re gone.”

Jackson said the Dickmann Town Center in Anderson is a prime example of sensitive restoration that preserves the past while meeting a current need.

“Now people who come to the town center can enjoy that architecture,” he said. “I understand that we have to make progress. We can’t stand on the past all the time.”

The architecture is a statement is what the city values and how it looks, Jackson said. It’s what sets one city apart from another, for instance, making Anderson what it is in comparison to Pendleton or Frankton.

“I’m a big fan of preserving the old when the old is a benefit. But I am a big fan of bringing in the new if it’s good for the city.”

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Source: The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin

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Information from: The Herald Bulletin, http://www.theheraldbulletin.com


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