JEFFERSONVILLE — Three months after fire destroyed a commercial building on a highly visible downtown Jeffersonville corner, its owner is ready to start rebuilding.
Fire broke out around 2:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at a two-story building at Court Avenue and Spring Street, which at the time housed 11 commercial tenants. No one was injured, but at one point as many as 30 firefighters were on scene. It took four hours to contain the blaze.
Louisville-based owner Bob McAuliffe, who’s had the building since 1983, said he’s now trying to finalize details with his insurance company and expects to have the building, which is a total loss, razed within two months. But, he and his son, Brendan, who manages the property, already have designs on what could be there next.
In an informal meeting last week with city officials, the two presented preliminary plans for a roughly 16,000-square-foot modern office building to be constructed on nearly the same foundational footprint as the current one, which was built in the early 1970s.
McAuliffe said they just wanted to get a general idea of the reaction to know if they were heading in the right direction. They have submitted an application to the Jeffersonville board of Planning and Zoning and will be finishing paperwork for the historic commission.
The owner said he wanted to stay and rebuild “in part, because we have so much history here and we feel that there is a need for an office building at this location that can provide services to the smaller tenants,” he said, adding that over the past four decades “we had the building mostly occupied and it stayed that way. We think that’s been successful so why change that?”
Working with Donhoff Kargl Nall Architects (DKN) of Louisville, the team has come up with a concept that could house up to 14 tenants, in spaces of 800 square feet or more. Large windows on each side would take advantage of natural light, and the ceilings would be higher, with an overall more modern aesthetic, McAuliffe said.
“The first thing we did was just research Jeffersonville and went up and down the local historic area to see what was here and then we started to do some research on other buildings in other communities,” McAuliffe said. “We wanted something that would have historical elements in it...masonry, materials, a good rhythm proportion to it, and pretty much in the exact same position that that building is.
“We came up with these proportions working with DKN and we think it’s a home run with the aesthetics.”
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said he was “extremely impressed” with the initial ideas presented last week at the informal meeting. “It’s one of the more iconic corners of the city with a beautiful setting with the park across the street and the historic buildings across from it.
“The renderings are beautiful, a lot of glass, really able to capture the skyline of Louisville and the beauty of downtown Jeff with all the windows.
“It’s a perfect fit and really high-quality office space which is a perfect blend for everything else we’ve got going in the downtown area.”
Moore said he’s had interest from other developers, but is glad to see McAuliffe taking the reins to rebuild the spot.
“Here’s a longtime investor in the city of Jeff who wants to rebuild and his son is following in his footsteps and a part of the project as well,” Moore said.
“He won’t have any trouble finding occupants for that. It’s a good fit. We’ve had a lot of luck drawing in restaurants and other businesses but you always have to keep in mind ‘what do all those restaurants need?’ They need customers so when you’re putting office staff down there, you’re feeding right into everything else that’s going to grow from that.”
McAuliffe has quotes on razing the existing building, which includes asbestos mitigation for the non-friable type of asbestos found in the exterior shingles. He’ll then need to file permits for removing the structure. In the meantime, he’ll be moving forward with getting the new project off the ground.
“If everything works out financially, we would want to get back onto it as quickly as possible,” he said. “But we think ultimately it’s a 10- to 12-month project.”