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June 2012
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City Hall awaits historic designation

Staff report


ity leaders are waiting to see if Paducah City Hall on South Fifth Street will be eligible for designation in the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, which could come as early as 2017 and might lead to tax credits for costly repairs to the building.

The city's attempt to gain such designation seems to be on schedule, officials say.

"The city is working on the nomination application with a first draft to go to the Kentucky Heritage Council for preliminary review by September," city of Paducah spokeswoman Pam Spencer said. "After (the council) reviews it and makes its requests for additional commentary, the final application will be submitted and then presented to the Heritage Council at a December meeting."

That meeting has yet to be scheduled, but if the council approves it, the application would then go to the federal historic council, and officials hope they will gain approval by next year.

"If the Kentucky Heritage Council approves it, we have a very, very good chance that the federal agency will approve it," Spencer said.

Paducah Main Street Director Melinda Winchester, who has nearly 13 years of experience in pursuing historic tax credits for projects, said the city's application must be approved by the Kentucky Heritage Council before coming before the National Park Service.

That's where the city's application currently sits.

Application for this designation comes on the heels of the Paducah City Commission learning that a full renovation of the building could run up to the $22 million range, leaving city leaders to wonder if only repairing the necessities at $3.4 million was an option.

The commission originally considered creating a new City Hall and had looked at several sites, including a city-owned lot at Fifth and Clark, areas near Dolly McNutt Plaza, and a former post office location.

What followed was a public outcry, not only regarding the price tag of a new City Hall, but the idea of anything happening to a possibly historic building.

This led Paducah-McCracken County Growth Inc., a local group that seeks to protect historic buildings, to invite engineer James Mason of Knoxville, Tennessee, to look at the project, and the commission began considering his idea to repair portions of City Hall, retaining the structure designed by internationally-known architect Edward Durell Stone.

Paducah Mayor Gayle Kaler and City Manager Jeff Pederson spoke with representatives from Ratio Architects earlier this year, asking them to break down the repairs into two phases, the first addressing the most urgent repairs, including stabilizing the sagging canopy and replacing the aging roof.

"We just, at this point in time, are focused on what it would take for us to address essentially the safety issues and the critical issue with the roof that is contributing to some deterioration inside the building," Pederson then said.

Pederson said he understood that stabilizing the canopy and replacing the roof would not prevent the city from addressing seismic concerns in the future.

"Neither one would negatively impact the city's ability to proceed with a next step in the process, and that next step could possibly be some additional structural stabilization of the rest of the building," Pederson said.

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