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CDBG Downtown Redevelopment Fund, Brings Historic Property Back to Life in Rutherfordton

Article Submitted By:

Stephanie Rzonca

Community Development Director

Town of Rutherfordton

After a lot of hard work and collaboration between a building owner, contractors, and the Town of Rutherfordton, the project of restoring an older building on Court Street is coming to an end. The building’s rehabilitation was made possible by a Community Development Block Grant, a federal program that allocates funding to communities for the purpose of preventing or eliminating blight, downtown redevelopment, or the installation of infrastructure in order to boost local economic development efforts. On September 7, 2016, the Rutherfordton Town Council authorized submitting an application to the NC Department of Commerce for the grant, which would reimburse up to $311,000 towards the restoration and rehabilitation of the building at 132 W Court Street. The application was in alignment with the town’s desire to assist in economic development and historic building preservation within the town limits.

The building was constructed in 1923, and historically used as a mortuary in downtown Rutherfordton. The building was also used for a long time as an auto parts business as a part of the thriving automotive corridor in downtown Rutherfordton, and then was used for several years as office space until Bob Decker purchased it in 2006. Decker initially took out the interior of the building to assess the structural condition, with the intent to complete a renovation and re-purpose the space. Unfortunately, the economic downturn of 2007 deterred any further development until the opportunity for the grant became available. "I had people who were interested in space contact me, but no one wanted to get involved in a renovation project. At the time there were many open storefronts in the downtown area," said Decker.

The structure is within the Rutherfordton Historic District and considered a building of significance within the district. While we do not have images of the building from around the time of its original construction, the Historic Preservation Society was consulted to select the historically appropriate doors, windows, color scheme, and other aspects of the building’s design. “As chairman of the Rutherfordton Historic Preservation Commission, I can say that this project has been a delight for all of our members. We have seen a dilapidated old building restored properly, while embracing its historic charm. While the Commission worked with the Owner to reestablish the façade, it was great to see the appreciation for the historic features of the building preserved in the interior as well," John Maishman said of the project. "I am looking forward to seeing the building become part of the active commerce in Rutherfordton and see it spur future historic renovation projects.”

One of the original building features was a garage door that had been bricked over into a window during the building’s long and diverse history of owners and tenants. For the restoration of the building, the window was converted back into a functional garage door. A lot of work went into the rear end of the building, where a patio was installed and all of the utility connections were moved. A retaining wall was built, and the Town assisted in the building of the wall and the improvement of the parking lot in the rear of the building. The interior of the building was transformed into a spacious and inviting work space, with a conference room, office space, and open floor plan. The garage door now opens into a small bay, for the loading and unloading of goods, or a good storage space.

The cost of the project exceeded the $311,000 grant, with the building owner investing more funds to ensure its successful completion. The Town also contributed funding to the project, with $30,000 in administrative expenses, and assistance in constructing the retaining wall in the rear of the building. “This has been a true team effort between the State of North Carolina, the Federal Government, the Town of Rutherfordton, my contractor David Stone, our sub-contractors, and myself,” owner Bob Decker said of the project. He went on to say, “It has been amazing what has been accomplished through this team and I hope it will be a catalyst for further growth in downtown Rutherfordton.”

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