revolutionary

Renovation to Tepper’s much needed for city

Published 1:04pm Friday, May 23, 2014

It won’t be an overnight transformation by any means, but the work underway at Selma’s Tepper’s building will eventually lead to a more complete downtown.

Since the historic structure was purchased by the nonprofit Freedom Foundation in January 2007, volunteers have been chipping away inside the long-vacant structure, but this week, construction crews were on the scene as the renovations picked up.

Roofers began removing the old metal roof Tuesday, and will soon install a new rubber roof to protect the building for decades to come.

After the roof work is complete, different crews will be on site to re-stabilize the building’s 100-year-old metal framework and then renovate the both the interior and exterior.

When the project is complete, the building will feature a café as well as open spaces and classrooms that can be used for a variety of events, including community meetings and theater productions.

But for all their hard work, the Freedom Foundation won’t be the big winner when the renovations are complete; that will be Selma.

Speaking to The Times-Journal in 2007, Freedom Foundation member Sean Black perfectly expressed this sentiment.

“We bought the building but it’s not ours,” Black said. “We’re going to give it back to the community.”

The renovated Tepper’s building will be just one more example of Selma’s monumental comeback.

When the building was built in 1907, the industrial revolution was in a full swing, and buildings like this were popping up across the country. Even today in Selma, a five-story building is nothing to be scoffed at.

But an abandoned five-story building attracts the wrong kind of attention.

Having a renovated and active Tepper’s will add so much continuity to our downtown. It will fill a void in Selma that has stood empty too long.

Selma has seen so many signs of revitalization over recent years; the old YMCA building has been saved from the wrecking ball, fresh landscaping will markedly improve the appearance of Water Avenue, and the Riverfront Amphitheater will be able to host the caliber of events that have traditionally gone to bigger cities.

I imagine there will be a grand opening ceremony when the work on the Tepper’s building is eventually complete, but there will be plenty of milestones in the project to celebrate between now and then. I, for one, might shoot off a few fireworks when the Lowe’s construction wrap is torn from the walls.

It has taken several years for the Freedom Foundation to raise the money necessary to turn the Tepper’s building around, but once the work is all said and done, it will be more than worth the wait.

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