Lexington's code enforcement department has taken emergency action to stabilize 115 West Main Street, an Italianate building that housed the now-closed Bellini's restaurant.
The city spent $2,900 this week to board up broken windows that were a hazard to passersby, according to David Jarvis, director of code enforcement.
The city received a complaint about the general condition of the downtown building — which was placed on the National Registry of Historic Properties in 1980 — last May and gave the building's owners 30 days to comply, Jarvis said.
In August, code enforcement issued a civil penalty to the property owner, NGS Reality. By October, the property had gone into lis pendens status, meaning it's the subject of legal action.
Susan Straub, a spokesman for Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, said that a previous code enforcement case was opened on the building in May 2013 for similar issues. To date, she said, the city has assessed $900 in fines against the building's owners.
"It did not fall into disrepair quickly," Straub wrote in an email message. "It has been a steady decline over several years due to a complete lack of maintenance. ... The building has a variety of other issues that still remain to be corrected, including additional window repairs, painting and gutters."
NGS Reality also owned Bellini's. It closed Jan. 1 after having been open since 2003. NGS was administratively dissolved by the Kentucky Secretary of State's office in late 2014 for not filing an annual report.
In January, Jamie Harris, attorney for Bellini's owners, said the owners had been meeting with potential buyers, and the building would probably continue to be used as a restaurant.
NGS filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2014. Its case was terminated Dec. 23.
No one associated with NGS could be reached for comment.
The cost for boarding up the windows was high because the broken windows — three in the front, three in the rear and two on the side — had to be custom fit and securely bolted to ensure that weather and birds did not intrude on the interior.
"We knew going into it that it was not going to be an inexpensive board-up," Jarvis said. "But we were afraid some of that glass would fall out."
Although code enforcement fixed the exterior, it was not allowed access to the interior of the building, he said.
"There's no activity," Jarvis said about the building's interior. "All the doors are locked up and secure."
Built in 1869, the building, with its scored Ohio free-stone front, was an Odd Fellows Temple. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is a civic and charitable organization that flourished in Lexington in the 1800s; only five Odd Fellows groups remain around the state.
The building later housed businesses including Skuller's Jewelry, which added the distinctive clock on the front about 1910.
When the building was completed, a Lexington newspaper at the time, the Gazette, called it "one of the handsomest buildings in the state."