CROTHERSVILLE — John Edrington has a popular regional restaurant interested in occupying space on the first floor of his building in downtown Crothersville.
In the last three months, though, there has been significant damage to the northeast corner of the building at Howard and Armstrong streets. That includes cracks developing and a “quite hazardous” façade.
Edrington estimates the repairs to cost $200,000.
He shared that information during a recent Crothersville Town Council meeting and asked if there is any funding available to help him make the repairs, considering the town had provided some money to Indiana Landmarks when it owned the building.
Edrington said he also needs to add a handicap ramp, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restrooms and walk-in freezers.
“There’s just a lot that goes into this type of process,” he told the council before asking if a tax abatement, CARES Act money or anything else is available to help.
Edrington said he also is working on getting the building, constructed in 1891, added to the National Register of Historic Places, so that could result in some federal funding opportunities.
Edrington owns five buildings and soon will add another one in downtown Scottsburg and said that city has awarded tax abatements for existing property.
“It’s kind of a gray area is what we’ll call it. Then it’s up to your (town) how you would want to handle that,” he said to the council. “They do find ways to give tax abatements for this because the tax abatement doesn’t cover the existing structure. It only covers any improvements that you make, so the tax abatement would only be for the $200,000 that we would be putting into the building.”
Councilman Chad Wilson asked Brad Bender with FPBH Inc. if he had any suggestions, and Bender said tax abatements normally are awarded to industries. He also has heard of them being given for retail purposes but not for residential very often.
Council Vice President Jamy Greathouse said while he didn’t have an answer for Edrington during the meeting, he said it started a conversation to see if the town can do anything to help.
“We want to bring businesses. We want to help where we can. We just want to make sure we’re doing it in the right way,” Greathouse said.
When industries have asked the council for abatements, Greathouse said they list how much they are going to invest and how much return the town is going to get from it.
Since Edrington didn’t have a lessee, Greathouse said there are still some unknowns.
“Hopefully, some of those blank spaces get filled in, but as of right now, there’s not that understanding, that information where you’re going to invest $200,000 and put X amount of employees,” Greathouse said. “I understand some of this stuff is going to have to get done. I think it definitely started a conversation. As for me, I think there’s some more information I would like.”
Edrington said he’s willing to get any questions answered for the town, and Greathouse said the council needs to look at its budget and consult with town attorney Matt Lorenzo to see what can be done. He also said he could reach out to mayors in Scottsburg and Seymour to see how they have handled similar requests.
“Speaking on behalf of the entire council, we fully support the idea. I’m excited,” Wilson said.
Edrington said a ribbon cutting is planned April 22 for a new coffee and ice cream shop he and his wife, Sarah, have opened in downtown Scottsburg, and he invited the council to attend to see what they have done with that space and others on the courthouse square.
“Our passion is bringing these historic buildings back and bringing some use to them,” he said. “Our opinion is that these buildings are meant to be used and occupied, not sit. There are so many people that want to hoard stuff inside these old buildings, and it’s not good for the building or the community, so we want to see use. That’s our intent. I didn’t buy the building (in Crothersville) for it to sit and rot. I bought it to get it up and going and do something with it.”
Wilson said he appreciates that, and Councilwoman Terry Richey said she’s excited about the prospects.
“It’s definitely not a situation where we’re saying this as kind of a punt situation to push it off,” Greathouse said. “Honestly, I just don’t think we know right now. We have a lot of questions. It’s not something historically the town of Crothersville has done, but obviously, we don’t have a business district like some of these other communities have, some events that they’ve done previously that they can go off of. This is new territory for us to make sure we’re going to do it the right way.”
Along with a restaurant on the first floor of the building, Edrington said the plans are to put three apartments upstairs.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for your town,” he said.
The Edringtons bought the Crothersville building at 121 E. Howard St. in August 2021 for $26,000. Over the years, the 2,030-square-foot building housed an Odd Fellows lodge, a library, a license branch and a pharmacy.
In 2015, Crothersville officials became concerned about the safety of the building and feared it would crumble into the street. The former owner, Nathan Ray, didn’t have the money to make repairs, and at the time, property taxes hadn’t been paid on the building since late 2012.
In July 2015, the Jackson County Commissioners voted 3-0 to give the town the tax sale certificate for the property. That move came after the county tried to sell it to collect unpaid property taxes on the property. No purchaser came forward.
The town had set aside $40,000 to demolish the building and clean up the site, but officials agreed to give that money to Indiana Landmarks to help pay for stabilizing the building. Indiana Landmarks is an organization that rehabilitates architecturally unique and historically significant structures.
The organization’s board met and approved the acceptance of the property and the $40,000 donation. Indiana Landmarks received the tax deed on the building in November 2015 and made improvements to the inside and outside in 2016 before putting it on the market in 2017.
It changed agents in November 2018, and Crothersville native Adam Schill, a Realtor with Dean Wagner Realtors in Columbus, took it over in November 2019.
The covenants on the building require it to stay in Grade A condition on the exterior, so the focus on the interior is to maintain the historical integrity.
The Edringtons became involved with investment properties, including historic homes, about 10 years ago. They bought their first building in Scottsburg about five years ago, leasing to two commercial businesses on the first floor and renovating apartments upstairs.
They also bought the building that used to house Scott Theater and later operated as the Ross Country Jamboree music venue and now is known as Ross Theater and is run by the family as a nonprofit organization. Since then, the theater has been showing movies.