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Next step for Robertson building

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Grant for $780,000 presented

By Brandon Mattingly

A presentation was held on Main Street last Thursday for the awarding of the $780,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to the city of Springfield for renovations to the Robertson Building.

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The building, which was built more than 100 years ago and is included on the National Register of Historic Places, was gifted to the city in 2011 and funding for the renovation of the property was recently finalized.

“We’re proud today to welcome you to what is the beginning of an exciting renovation project; one that will return this building back to its glory,” said Mayor John W. Cecconi at Thursday’s presentation.

He was joined by several other city and county officials, as well as Tony Wilder, commissioner of the Department for Local Government (DLG), and Holly Wiedemann, president of AU Associates, a managing partner with the city on the project.

Wilder said the DLG categorizes projects by “priority one, two and three,” and that the Robertson building project was priority one from the beginning. He said the most appealing part of supporting a project in Springfield was the connections the city had already established.

“The partnerships locally are so impressive,” Wilder said. “I’m from right up the road in Perryville and I was county judge in Boyle County for almost 15 years. As someone who’s been in local government, I understand that when you take on a project, or you have an idea or a dream, whether you’re in Louisville or Springfield, almost invariably, you cannot do that project on your own. You cannot do it without help and without partnering and this is one of the finest examples of partnering that I’ve seen.”

Plans for the Robertson building, which served as the home to the Robertson Store for nearly a century, include turning a portion of the building into affordable housing, while using a large part of the main floor for commercial use.

The CDBG funding is eligible for use on the renovation of housing, while $421,000 in state and federal tax historic tax credits and a $394,000 HOME Investment Partnership Program grant help cover the remaining costs. The Springfield Tourism Commission also previously paid $43,000 for roofing, as well as the project receiving contributions of $8,000 from AU Associates and $100 in general partner equity.

Wilder also said this isn’t the first time he’s seen Springfield’s Main Street take a big step forward.

“I’ve been an admirer of Springfield for a long time, and I remember it was one of the first small towns to do the streetscape project,” he said. “It completely transformed this city.”

He also complimented local, progressive leaders and said Main Street’s importance to the community should not be understated.

“I’m an old historian, too, and I believe what is good for the county seat is good for the county,” Wilder said. “When you preserve a Main Street, you preserve the soul of your people. I’m telling you, that’s a fact. I want to commend you all and we’re so proud to be a part of this.”

Gov. Steve Beshear added in a press release on Thursday that the renovations will help fill a need in downtown Springfield.

“Safe, quality housing is an important element to enhancing the value of any community,” Beshear said. “This project will revive an historic downtown building in Springfield and will provide several families in the area with the dependable, accessible homes they need.”

Wiedemann added that the renovations will help bring back some of the building’s missing historical value.

“By transforming this important but neglected urban building with character into an asset that contributes to the heart of Springfield, we are preserving a place that tells the community’s story and helps them understand Springfield’s rich history,” she said.

The renovated building will consist of a commercial space on the main floor, as well as seven energy efficient apartments – four one-bedroom units, two two-bedroom units and one handicapped-accessible two-bedroom unit.

The CDBG program is administered by DLG and funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).