JEFFERSONVILLE — There is renewed hope for the historic Masonic temple in downtown Jeffersonville — a structure that just months ago faced demolition.
Realtor Lincoln Crum, working with current building owner Chris Nolan, is looking for a buyer and private investors to actualize his vision of turning the building into a multi-use 25-40-room boutique hotel.
Crum's initial plan includes such features as a first-floor restaurant with rooftop space, small event space, tower elevator and an art element throughout the building — a redevelopment he said would be a major asset to Jeffersonville's downtown area and would fit in nicely with the burgeoning adjacent arts and cultural district.
“[It would be] something that gives our city something to be proud of,” he said. “A nice place where people from out of town can come, people from in town can come. I just think I have a really great idea that could work and be a win for the city [and] community.”
Jim Epperson, executive director for the Clark-Floyd counties Convention and Tourism Bureau, said the boutique hotel, while different from other planned lodging development, is good for the growing area.
“I think it really fits well with where Jeffersonville is taking their downtown and the arts and cultural district and the whole area being tied together,” he said. More reasons for people to come and stay longer. It's necessary to grow like this.”
He said he thinks once Louisville's convention center reopens, that will show what the real demand for the area is on both sides of the river.
“We are about to go through some kind of boom here the way Louisville has,” he said.
Although Nolan had several ideas to turn the building into various things, including multi family apartments and office space, he previously said the layout of the building had made it difficult. But Crum said he believes the boutique hotel concept is perfect for the spot along Spring Street just north of Court Avenue.
“The research I've done shows that there are a lot of projects like this across the country where people have taken these historic [buildings], repurposed them and brought them back to life,” he said.
The building and its accompanying one-third acre of land is currently listed for sale for $600,000. Crum estimates it'll take around a $3 million investment to turn the building — which has suffered major damage over the past few years — into a boutique hotel.
Crum's initial talks with Jeffersonville leaders, potential local investors and other stakeholders have been good so far.
“We do have some local interest in folks that are talking about an investment,” he said. “So in the early stages, we're making some headway and getting positive responses.”
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said he's excited about Crum's plan.
“I think the setting for that is perfect,” he said. “Everything we're doing around that property plays in perfectly for that use.”
Moore said he would like to see the selling price come down a little, to make the property more marketable. A recent engineering report estimates that to stabilize the building could cost between $400,000 and $700,000, Crum said.
“It's a beautiful piece of art and I want to save it, but the City has no money to do that,” Moore said.
Crum said he sees the price as fair.
“I've been in the industry a long time and I've seen a lot of these old buildings come and go in downtown Jeff,” he said. “At $600,000, that's about $25 per square foot for a really solid old building.”
Crum said there are tax credits available to help with the investment and it's his job to look for those, seek out investors and just get everybody at the table together.
“The building is savable, but time is of the essence,” he said. “If we don't do something now, meaning [get started on a plan] within a year, I'm afraid we could lose this building, and I don't want to do that.”