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October 22, 2014

Two Courthouse Square buildings getting upgrades

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Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 10:00 pm

TALLADEGA -- Fans of both night life and, er, morning life will have something to look forward to once two projects on Talladega’s Courthouse Square come to fruition. The Kenwin building, on the northwest corner of the square, will soon be home to Square Cup coffee shop, while a portion of the old Braswell’s building will be home to the Dega Brewhouse.

According to City Manager Brian Muenger, the city had previously sought out a Rural Business Enterprise Grant for the Waldrup Building, next to Kenwin and currently home of LMo & Co. “We had great success with that, and we were able to replace the roof on all three of the buildings there. The Kenwin building has been vacant since then, used mostly for storage.”

RBEG grants require a private sector partner with a business plan to be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The plan for Square Cup came from Carol Ann Wells, Muenger said. The new business will feature gourmet coffee, of course, along with desserts and sandwiches.

“We initially asked for about $200,000, but these grants are competitive, and this time we were awarded $95,000,” Muenger explained. The original architect’s estimate for the project is $288,000, but he is confident that the final price will be somewhere in the $200,000 range, with the city providing matching funds not covered in the grant.

The building will be divided in half, with the other half continuing to be used as storage by the Ritz Theater.

“That’s actually the way these buildings were built, in smaller parcels for boutiques and specialty shops. The trend seems to be going back toward that in downtown areas,” Muenger said.

On the southwest side of the square, Lindsey Moses (owner of LMo & Co.) and Trey Cobb have begun renovations on their own. One side will be the brewhouse, the other will be occupied by the new offices of the law firm Campbell and Campbell, which owns the building.

Moses said the building first went up as a multifunction office building around the turn of the century. Goldberg and Lewis, the premier clothing store in the area, occupied the ground floor, with Peoples Finance, WNUZ Radio and other businesses occupying the upper floors. As these businesses went away or relocated, the upper floors were briefly used by the Coosa Valley Baptist Association, but have been vacant since the mid-1960s. Cobb said the last time the building was fully occupied was in 1967.

The Braswell’s building was one of the first they looked at, but they spent about three years looking at each available property before finally settling on their current project.

Their goal is to restore or repurpose everything they possibly can. The Historic Preservation Commission has already approved the removal of a metal facade from the building, revealing a stone archway that no one has seen in a generation. They have also discovered windows overlooking an alleyway that no one seemed to know were there.

Carpet is being torn up to reveal the original hardwood floors underneath, and an ugly drop ceiling is being removed to show the original metalwork above. The biggest remaining challenge will probably involve the heating/air conditioning and ventilation systems, and they are open to volunteers looking to help out.

Once Dega Brewhouse opens, the first emphasis will be on area microbrews with snacks and finger foods. The capital from craft and draft beer sales will initially go into expanding the kitchen, and eventually they hope to have a working brewery on the site.

“We’re hoping to grow with a lot of community support,” Moses said. “We’re hoping to create the atmosphere of a destination for young adults, so they won’t necessarily have to go to Sylacauga or Oxford. We’re very excited, and we’re working as fast as we can on a very tight budget right now.”

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com.

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