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Second life for old city offices

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The building that was home to Greenwood city offices for nearly 30 years is being considered for condominiums or offices.

In April, when the city moved to its new office building less than a quarter-mile away, the goal was to have a buyer lined up for the former city hall so it wouldn’t be vacant very long after the move.

Now, the city is working to negotiate a deal with one of four interested businesses, including companies that want to buy the building to use as high-end condos or offices.

Officials want to pick a project that fits well in downtown, but it depends on what deal the city can afford, deputy mayor Terry McLaughlin said.

In both Greenwood and Franklin, longtime city hall buildings where people paid sewer fees and visited the mayor for decades now sit empty.

Franklin’s former city hall at 55 W. Madison St. has been vacant since the city’s offices moved to a renovated building on Monroe Street in 2009. The city is close to reaching a deal for a restaurant and brewery to go into the building, after rejecting proposals to use it as space for a retailer or a city court.

Both buildings are more than 80 years old and need extensive renovations inside while keeping the historic exteriors intact, officials said.

Greenwood chose not to renovate the old Polk building on Madison Avenue because of an expected $2.8 million price tag for rehabbing it. It served as city hall from the 1980s until this spring.

The board of works owns the building, which is 28,000 square feet and needs repairs to its foundation as well as a complete renovation for a closed-off wing the city didn’t use.

The city consolidated offices in the Presnell building at Main Street and Madison Avenue.

The city sent out letters requesting proposals from about 25 businesses that officials thought would be interested in repurposing the building, which was built in 1920 to serve as a community center.

‘In a perfect world’

Ideally, Greenwood will sell the building to a business that best suits officials’ visions for revitalizing downtown, but that might not happen, McLaughlin said.

City officials will have to decide what Greenwood can afford, based on any help with renovations or other incentives buyers might request, he said.

“In a perfect world, it would be nice if it would be something that’s unique and would help downtown. Those are the things you want to get, hope to get,” he said.

More importantly, the city wants a buyer who will keep the historic exterior of the building and reuse the inside in a way that improves the area, Mayor Mark Myers has said. He wants to see the building developed into high-end condominiums.

Four proposals

Greenwood got four proposals from companies that want to buy the building, and officials are asking one of them to agree to pay $675,000.

The old city hall by state law cannot sell for less than the average of two appraisals but can sell for more than that, city attorney Krista Taggart said in an email.

In the meantime, McLaughlin is not sure how much upkeep of the building, such as mowing and paying for heat in the winter so water pipes don’t freeze, will cost.

To make sure no one breaks into the building, the city’s maintenance department daily sends an employee to walk through to be sure no one has broken in and the building is still in the same shape officials left it when they moved, McLaughlin said.

Cost of maintenance

In Franklin, the city spends about $15,000 per year to maintain the former city hall building, including paying for mowing, gas, electricity and water so the facility can be shown to prospective buyers and the water lines don’t freeze, community development director Krista Linke said.

Franklin is closer to a deal, with an agreement nearly finalized with Old Post Brewpub, a business that wants to convert the old city hall into a restaurant and brewery.

The building, which originally was the city’s post office, has sat empty since city offices moved out about five years ago, and the city redevelopment commission has been trying to sell it since 2011.

The redevelopment commission owns the building and is offering it for a price of $212,000, which is the average of two appraisals.

The goal has been to find a buyer who will use the building in a way that fits in downtown and is willing to invest to renovate it, Linke said.

Old Post Brewpub would need to invest $450,000 for renovations and starting the business in order for the redevelopment commission to pay up to $260,000 in building repairs, she said.

The city can take back the building if the company doesn’t follow through on its end of the deal, she said.

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