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Elsmere Moves Forward on New City Building

 

The City of Elsmere is moving closer to moving out.

The city closed earlier this month on the sale of 3915-3925 Dixie Highway, the former site of Elsmere Drugs and Sid's Pharmacy where it plans to construct a new government building.

The businesses currently housed at the site will see their leases end at the end of the year.

Elsmere considered eight sites as it embarked on a search for a new home, with key motivations being high visibility and more centrality in its location.

The new building, seen in an artist's rendering above, will be more than 15,000-square feet and house the city's administrative offices, council chambers, and the police department. Currently, the police department is housed separately from the rest of the city government.

"Elsmere, its employees, elected officials and most importantly, its residents have needed a new, more functional city building for years," said Elsmere Mayor Marty Lenhof.  "The new building will have high visibility, easy accessibility, and expanded meeting space for the public to attend city council meetings. A major improvement for our residents will be the convenience of accessing city services and meeting with employees in one centralized location."

City Administrator Matt Dowling said the city really had no choice but to construct a new city building, instead of trying to renovate either of the old buildings where the city and police department operate separately.

"We had a facility study done by our architect which showed it would cost approximately $1.3 million to make the capital improvements needed to bring these buildings up to code, which included installation of new HVAC and electrical systems, new roofs, better accessibility for the disabled, and other capital improvements," Dowling said. "And these repairs would not have improved the functionality of these buildings."

Dowling added that the police building was originally a bank building, and though it was renovated to meet the needs and requirements of the police department at the time, he said, "It's still a bank building."

The new location was owned by JJH Investments, LLC. 

The city block is bounded by Carlisle Street on the south and Garvey Avenue on the north, and Cross Street on the east, with Dixie Highway on the west. New neighbors include a US Bank branch and the Hoffman building.

The new building's design is L-shaped and will have a basement as well. Designed by Lexington-based D. Scott Noel of Summit Architectural Services, the total cost is expected to be $3.2 million, including the $600,000 purchase price for the land.

When the Kentucky League of Cities hosted one of its annual conferences, Mayor Lenhof said he approached a booth that featured Summit, and discussed some options with them. At the recommendation of KLC, Summit was selected for the work.

Noel, the architect, told the city that if a renovation of an existing building is more than 80 percent of the cost of something new, it may be time to evaluate the new.

The city expects to recoup some of its investment by selling its current city building and police building. The city will issue a $5 million bond to finance the project.

"We believe that the amount we get for these two properties could more than cover the land acquisition costs paid to JJH Investments for its properties," said Dowling, the city administrator. "In addition, the sale of these two buildings to private businesses also will create new economic development opportunities in our city."

The city recently received Aa3 bond rating from Moody's, which is a high grade bond rating, and will allow the city to receive favorable interest rates. Ross Sinclaire and Associates is the city's financial adviser for the bond placement.

"The city will  be able to repay these bonds through our existing revenues and existing budget funds," said Mayor Lenhof. "In fact, through the effective management of resources and tax dollars, for the second year in a row, the city of Elsmere lowered its property tax rate this year."

The city and the architect hosted an open house last week to address residents' questions.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor

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