VERSAILLES — Nearly a decade after buying the castle in Woodford County for $1.8 million, Miami lawyer Tom Post continues to add to his Central Kentucky real estate holdings.
Earlier this year, he entered into a lease-purchase agreement for the old St. Leo School in Versailles, which he could buy at the end of five years. The building was used as a Catholic school from 1965 until 2010, when the parish opened a new school and church on Huntertown Road.
Post is formulating plans for the 25,000-square-foot property with 80 parking spaces on 1.7 acres. His ideas include turning it into an antiques mall, a health-care clinic, a senior day care or a nursing home for the elderly.
"We wanted to acquire it because we thought real estate was coming back and it was a really good buy," said Post, 67. "It's in a great location, within walking distance of downtown Versailles, a lovely community to live in and work in."
Post said he was sounding out prospective tenants about the use of and rental price for the building.
Included in the lease is a two-story brick house that was the dwelling for nuns who taught at the school. The house would be suitable space for an accounting or engineering firm, Post said.
Another idea is to use the stage in the gymnasium for an arts event, perhaps a one-person show, on the debut night of the restaurant Post plans to open at CastlePost, the castle he remodeled into a luxury inn. The gym could seat 300, he said.
Mattie Schafer of Springfield is a partner with Post in the school lease-purchase. They came to know each other when she visited CastlePost during a fundraiser. Her four grandchildren attended St. Leo School, so she had an interest in seeing the building's adaptive reuse.
"I'm a widow, and investments lately have been hard, so I figured that anybody who lives in a castle should know where to invest my money," Schafer said.
Post also hopes to buy a property in Franklin County, but he said he didn't want to discuss details until the deal had closed. If it goes through, he might rent out that building for small businesses, such as a floral shop or a café.
Meanwhile, Post is gearing up to open a full-fledged restaurant at CastlePost, with seating for 75. Post had hoped to open the restaurant by May 1, but CastlePost manager Charles Martin said June was a more realistic opening date.
Passage of "tourist destination" amendments to the local zoning ordinance by Woodford Fiscal Court in February cleared the way for Post to open a restaurant to the general public at the turreted luxury inn on U.S. 60. Previously, only guests staying at CastlePost could dine there.
Post would like diners to tour the first floor of the castle "so people get an idea of what's really there. We're hoping if they come for dinner, they may want to stay longer."
The "tourist destination" text amendments to the Woodford zoning ordinance are being challenged in court by the Woodford Coalition, the Pisgah Community Historic Association and several residents. Post is not named in the suit, but the complaint alleges the amendments violate the Kentucky Constitution's prohibition of special legislation. The complaint says there was no reason for the text amendments to the zoning ordinance "but for the economic interests of Thomas Post in operating The Castle."
Post and Martin had no comment on the suit. Post did say: "I think we have done a good job of enhancing the value of Versailles to the outside world."
He estimated that more than $1 million has been raised by various groups, including the American Heart Association, the Salvation Army and others, that held special events at CastlePost.
A Lafayette High School graduate, Post earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a law degree at the University of Kentucky. He made his money in real estate.
He bought the castle in 2003 from the estate of Rex Martin, and in 2008, he opened it as a luxury inn. He owns three buildings in downtown Versailles, including the Amsden Building on South Main Street across from the county courthouse.
Post's official residence is Miami, but he stays at CastlePost when he is in Central Kentucky. Nevertheless, Post said, he would consider selling CastlePost if the right offer came along. During the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, an ad posted on the Internet advertised "Kentucky Castle, for sale, $30 million." A similar ad remains at Exchangors.com/aa_featuredproperty.asp and lists Martin as the broker.
Post said he wasn't actively soliciting offers, but "I'll look at any offers anybody wants to make. We have some very well-to-do people who are looking, as we sit here today, in acquiring the castle. Whether it will go through today or tomorrow or next year or two years from now or five years from now, I don't know, but at some point in time the castle will be sold."
Post also is selling the Kentucky Mansion, an inn at U.S. 60 and Shannon Run Road that is catty-corner from CastlePost. He bought the former Crescent Hill Farm property from the Stilz family in 2005, two years after buying the castle.
"Keeping the farm up is a lot of work," Martin said.