State

Long-shuttered factory is now full of affordable apartments. ‘Everything you need is close’

When the Goodall plant opened in Danville during the Great Depression in the 1930s, it was important to the local economy because it created more than 500 jobs, mostly for women. This archival photo shows women working on the sewing line.
When the Goodall plant opened in Danville during the Great Depression in the 1930s, it was important to the local economy because it created more than 500 jobs, mostly for women. This archival photo shows women working on the sewing line.

When retiree Faye Williams moved from Texas to Boyle County to be closer to her children, she found low-cost living space in a former sewing factory where workers once made suits for men.

“I think for someone who lives alone, this seems safer,” Williams said of Goodall Apartments. “It’s close to stores and very close to the post office and the banks. Everything you need is close.”

The Goodall Apartments, with 32 units, are in the former Palm Beach Co. plant, which opened in 1937 as Goodall Industries and closed in 1987. Schools in Versailles and Midway have been turned into apartments, but converting a factory into living space is relatively rare in Central Kentucky.

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, so there were additional regulations to be followed. But many local, state and federal officials wanted to see the building preserved.

“Otherwise, it’s just going to sit here vacant and continue to deteriorate,” said Wayne Koehler, president of National Housing Associates, a nonprofit organization that turned the factory into affordable housing.

Such conversion projects are common in inner-city Cleveland, Milwaukee and Louisville. In Shelbyville, the former Coca-Cola bottling plant was turned into the “Cola Commons” apartments in the early 2000s, said Cindy Young, manager of the Goodall Apartments.

People began moving into the apartments in September, and Williams moved in a month later. A dozen apartments were rented by mid-November, Koehler said.

The two- and three-bedroom apartments are available to low-income residents. The 20 two-bedroom apartments rent for $530 a month, and the four three-bedroom units rent for $600 a month.

Apartments are equipped with a full kitchen (refrigerator, dishwasher, oven/stovetop), central air conditioning and ceiling fans.

Each apartment has a carpeted, enclosed “three-season room,” similar to a sun room or Florida room. Inside, residents can open the factory’s original windows to let in fresh air.

“That gives you ventilation,” said Williams, 71, a retired certified nursing assistant.

Apartments on the top floor, where Williams lives, have some of the factory’s original blond wood floors.

Faye Williams talks about why she likes living in Goodall Apartments, a historic former sewing factory in Danville that's been converted to affordable housing.

Jody Lassiter, president of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership, said the project preserved a local landmark and provided affordable housing for working people and families within walking distance of Danville’s downtown.

The Danville conversion project, which cost about $5 million, was financed in part through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. That federal program provides dollar-for-dollar reduction in income taxes for developers of affordable housing in exchange for providing below-market rents for at least 15 years.

The tax credits are then sold to investors, who provide equity to the development.

In its garment-making days, the Danville factory was referred to as “Plant No. 4,” as seen in a separate tablet inset above the main entrance. Records indicate that Plant 1 was in Cincinnati, Plant 2 was north of Cincinnati and Plant 3 was in Knoxville.

When the Danville plant opened during the Great Depression, it created more than 500 jobs, mostly for women.

The plant made light, durable Palm Beach suits from a blend of cotton and mohair fabric. During World War II, the plant made military uniforms.

Koehler said the hope is that the apartments will attract working people who are making minimum wage.

“Once somebody moves in, they can then make more money and be even over income, but they can’t be forced out because of fair housing regulations, so they don’t get penalized for bettering themselves,” Koehler said. “This is supposed to be a bridge for people to go from living here to then buying a single-family home.”

  Comments