The Urban County Council gave final approval Thursday for a plan to spend $12 million on renovations to the former Fayette County courthouse on Main Street.
The council unanimously approved a resolution that would approve spending $12 million of $22 million set aside for the renovation of the now-shuttered courthouse. In addition, the resolution would give the green light for the creation of nonprofit and for-profit entities that are needed for the city to use state and federal historic tax credits. Those tax credits could pay for up to $8 million of the projected $30 million overhaul.
Governments cannot receive state and federal tax credits. That’s why the nonprofit and for-profit entities had to be created, Lexington officials said at a meeting this month. The council had set aside $22 million for the courthouse project in the current year’s budget.
The city hopes to hear soon whether it will receive the state and federal tax credits. It can’t start construction on the exterior renovations, which will include a new roof, masonry fixes and other repairs, until it hears from the state. That means construction on the outside of the courthouse most likely won’t start until early summer. The city hopes to start work on the inside of the courthouse in August.
Some on the council have expressed reservations about the project. The goal is to attract tenants to the former courthouse, generating rental income that will pay the operational costs of the building. However, potential tenants cannot sign on until the renovations are further along. City officials have said they have spoken to people who have expressed interest in renting the building.
The Richardsonian Romanesque building opened in 1900 and was used as a courthouse until the current courthouse complex on North Limestone opened in the early 2000s. The building housed museums until 2012, when it was shuttered after the city found asbestos and other hazardous material.