Plans for downtown Selma building remain unknown

Published 12:44 am Sunday, August 16, 2009

The 90 days is about over for the Freedom Foundation to do something about the Tepper’s Building downtown.

The Freedom Foundation, a local non-profit group, received a certificate of appropriateness in May from the Selma Historic Development Commission.

That certificate, which allows work on a building in the historic preservation district, is good for 90 days, said Selma Community Development Director Charlotte Griffeth.

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The group will have to re-apply for permission to work on the building when the time is over. The commission meets every third Thursday of the month.

Last week, Council member the Rev. Dr. Cecil Williamson said he had not seen any activity around the city’s tallest structure in quite some time. He asked about an update. The discussion came shortly after the council approved a list of nuisance properties — dilapidated buildings deemed as health and safety concerns.

City Council President Dr. Geraldine Allen told Williamson to submit his questions in writing and cut off any discussion.

After the meeting, Williamson would not say if he considered the Tepper’s building a nuisance property.

In May, A.J. Page, an architect with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood of Montgomery, represented the Freedom Foundation at the historic development commission meeting. He said the work would include historic faade renovation of the two-story storefront systems.

“This includes the historic restoration of the cornice, carpentry and original vaulted entry,” Page wrote on an application for the certificate of appropriateness. “All historic design has been coordinated with the revitalization handbook of Selma, Alabama, (1979), as given by the historic development commission.”

The COA signed by commission Chairman M. Scott Patterson outlined the work, which included restoration of the cornice under the second floor to the ground level, using original material and design to reflect the original structure.

Freedom Foundation Chairwoman Shawn Samuelson said last week the renovation work on the Tepper’s building continues.

“As with any 100-year-old building renovation, there are many issues that have come up that we weren’t anticipating — one of which has been structural,” she said in an e-mail response to questions. “Our architecture firm, Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, has done a great job of assessing the situation and has developed a structural plan to address the problems.”

The economic downtown occurring nationwide has also stymied work on the building, Samuelson said.

“The financial crisis that the country is facing has affected the Freedom Foundation, just as it is affecting non-profit organizations across the county,” she said. “Though progress has temporarily slowed on the Tepper’s building due to the state of the economy, we continue to move forward toward the vision and plan for the completed renovation of the building.”

The Freedom Foundation purchased the building in January 2007.

An all-volunteer workforce removed the exterior of the first two floors, exposing red brick walls inside the building.

The exterior of the first two floors, including new window were scheduled for completion in February. The goal for completion of both the interior and exterior was 2010.

Plans had called for a deli, ice cream and coffee shop on the first floor. The second floor would provide offices for a Youth Leadership Institute the foundation has been working on.