Home Money City council holds public forum to discuss historical district

City council holds public forum to discuss historical district

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Monday evening, the Athens City Council voted unanimously to pass ordinance 0-12-15, which dubbed certain buildings on West Union Street as historic landmarks.

The ordinance came after buildings were damaged when a fire broke out in the early morning of Nov. 11.

The five buildings that faced damages housed Jack Neal’s Florists, Jackie O’s Public House, The Union Bar and Grill, Kismet and The Smoke Zone.

With only the faces of the buildings remaining, the new declaration of the area as a historic district allows West Union Street to receive tax credits and government funds that will help to rebuild the fire damaged buildings.

Community members gathered to speak out about the ordinance.

Owner of the buildings at 14 1/2 and 16 West Union, Guy Phillips , said that the cost to repair his damaged businesses will be between $1.5 and $1.8 million.

Phillips said the tax breaks associated with the declaration of the area as a Historic District will help soften the financial blow.

“This is one of the things that makes it possible for me to do this [rebuild],” Phillips said.

In order to keep the buildings historically sound, the owners must keep the original facades which are all intact.

They will be doing the majority of repairs on the insides of the buildings where the fire most affected them.

“We need all the help we can get to do it,” said Phillips, “or else it won’t get done.”

Pete Couladis, the owner of the buildings that house The Union and the kitchen of Jackie O’s Public House, said he wants to get started on construction as soon as possible.

“We’re hoping to get started before the summer,” Couladis said.

He said that architects are now beginning to worry about mold forming.

That will play a role in how soon the construction can begin and how soon the buildings will be open after construction.

“In order to put the roof on, it needs to be dry,” said Couladis. “We’re hoping to get it up and running as soon as possible.”

The biggest thing that business owners must do now is preserve the portions of the buildings that are considered historic.

Fourth Ward Rep. Chris Fahl, who introduced the ordinance, said that the facade preservation the owners will have to do is “a fairly normal thing to do in historic preservation”.

While fixing facades may be normal, what Couladis says will affect his building the most will not be the construction on his own building.

“What may affect us is the demolition of the other buildings as well,” he said.

Both Couladis and Phillips hope that the building owners will be able to work together

“I think we’re sharing an architect,” said Phillips. “We are here to help in any way that we can.”

Couladis is hoping to get a couple hundred thousand dollars to go toward the construction process however he is not yet sure how much tax credits and other state funded aid will be awarded to them.

“One is for about 25 percent and the other is about 10 percent so that will definitely help,” Couladis said.

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