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E'town open to more J.J. Newberry proposals

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Buchanan says he will relax deadline on business proposal to give city space to make decision

By Marty Finley

Elizabethtown officials have decided to open up the field to more proposals for the former J.J. Newberry property before making a decision.

Mayor Edna Berger said the city wants to explore its options and ensure any plan to resurrect the deteriorating property is financially sound and has every chance it needs to succeed.

The council met Monday in closed session with local musician Chris Buchanan to discuss a business proposal he made to purchase 100 E. Dixie Ave. for $5,000 and renovate it into a café, bar and live music venue with a turn-of-the-century look and shaded rooftop seating.

Buchanan, a member of Elizabethtown act Poor Man’s Grave, has crafted a Facebook page promoting his proposal, which has received support and enthusiasm from local residents and downtown business owners.

He said he has been blown away by the good gestures of the public, some of whom have offered their help to raise money.

Buchanan hoped for a decision from the council by Monday, but he said Wednesday he is removing a deadline to give the city more time and space to evaluate its options and address other interested parties.

Executive Assistant Charlie Bryant last week said others have approached the city to tour the property, but Buchanan’s proposal was the only one officials had in hand. City Attorney D. Dee Shaw said the city is not legally obligated to consider other proposals.

Bryant said the city wants to allow for more proposals and further flesh out what needs to be done restoring the building.

While it has not formally rejected Bu­chanan’s plan, Bryant said, the council is not accepting it right now either.

Berger said she hopes Buchanan stays involved in the process and continues to promote his idea.

The concept he has proposed would include about $280,000 in restoration costs. Buchanan works in the financial industry and has managed millions in distressed and foreclosed assets. He said he has investors lined up to support the restoration and would pour his own money into the project to make it operational.

The exterior of the cafe would feature a black vinyl awning, wrought-iron railing on the roof, decorative wood trim around the windows, neutral earth tones paint finish and a lighted marquee similar to but smaller than the one on the Historic State Theater, according to the business plan.

Inside, there would be hardwood floors, candelabra lighting, a mahogany bar, a movable music stage, antique replica fixtures, gaslight wall lighting and exposed brick if possible, according to the plan. Buchanan said his venue would create an inviting, classy atmosphere for patrons that would not promote drunken debauchery.

“Imagine sitting on the rooftop, sipping a cold one and listening to your favorite live music,” Buchanan wrote.

Even as the city mulls the fate of the J.J. Newberry property, two competing proposals have surfaced for the city-owned property at 133 West Dixie Ave. — formerly known as the purple building — across from City Hall and the Hardin County History Museum. One idea promoted for the property has been a pub-like setting.

Berger said the city will hear presentation on both proposals during a closed session Monday, Aug. 4. Planning Director Ed Poppe said he could not share specifics on the proposals.

“That’s real estate,” Poppe said. “I can’t give you that information.”

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.