Historic downtown building’s first floor completion prompts multiple moves
As she sat Monday at her desk, Patti Bishop noted how the light from the midwinter sun brightens her new office, even though it doesn’t have an exterior window.
The director of the East Central Kansas Cooperative in Education and the rest of her administrative staff moved last week into the eastern half of the newly renovated two-story brick building at 600 High St. The building’s most striking exterior feature is its first-floor façade with its rows of windows separated by Victorian woodwork. The special education cooperative’s four offices were built with open ceilings that allow them to take advantage of the light streaming through the façade into the entry lobby.
“It’s really nice,” Bishop said. “They did a really nice job. They did a wonderful job bringing back the wood floors.”
With the completion of the ground floor, Days of Old Antiques moved from its temporary location one door to the west into the western side of the building as the cooperative relocated from its former offices on Chapel Street.
Three years ago, the sidewalk east of the long-neglected 1894 building was blocked because of bricks falling from its upper floor. Battered garage doors, cinderblocks and fiberboard walled up the front façade.
The building was days away from the wrecking ball in November 2010 when the Baldwin City Council agreed to provide partners Rick Dietz, Bill Harmon, Dave Hill and Alan Wright a $25,000 grant to help with its renovation, a decision that spared the city demolition costs of more than $50,000. For the next three years, the partners worked through the renovation in three phases, starting with stabilizing the building, completing the paperwork necessary to place the building on the Register of Historic Kansas Places and ending with its actual renovation.
“We wanted to do it right,” Wright said. “Everybody I’ve talked to (in the community) really likes it.”
The three apartments on the second floor will be finished soon, Wright said. The partners are considering having an event to mark the completion when the apartments are finished, he said.
Meanwhile, the building’s ground floor completion prompted a series of moving days. The Baldwin school district will move its remaining administrative offices Thursday and Friday from the old middle school across Chapel Street to the offices the cooperative vacated, said Superintendent Paul Dorathy. The school board approved last summer the move to the much smaller building as a way to save on utility costs.
With longtime tenant Rainbow Experience Preschool having moved during the holiday break from the middle school’s basement to its new location at Sixth and Baker streets, the middle school will be unoccupied and ready for its next owner.
In September, the board approved selling the middle school, neighboring South Gym and surrounding campus to Kansas City developer Tony Krsnich for $90,000. Krsnich plans to renovate the old school into apartments and a small-business incubator. He made available to the board signed commitments from investors to purchase $614,000 in federal historic preservation tax credits and $763,000 in state historic preservation tax credits, which will be used for its renovation.
Two weeks ago, Krsnich told the Signal he was still working out the details of the building’s purchase and that more should be known in about 45 days.
Dorathy said he agreed with that timeframe, saying the district and Krsnich should close on the property in late February or early March.
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