MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon City Council approved emergency legislation Monday night to allow the city, in partnership with the Woodward Development Corp., to apply for a Downtown Tier 3 Community Block Development Grant.
If approved, the grant would provide $200,000 to restore the areaways and historic vaults on north side of the Woodward building, said Pat Crow, Woodward project manager, of the WDC, during the Streets and Public Building Committee meeting prior to the regular council session.
There are 13 historic vaults along the areaways, grant money would be used to preserve some of those vaults to allow for entryways to stores planned in the basement of the Woodward building. Stabilization and restoration would also occur with the vaults.
“It will be just like the stairs that lead into Cheers,” Crow said referring to the popular situation comedy from the 1980s.
The vaults are believed to have been storage areas for coal to heat the building. Plans are to build steps down through the vault area to the future stores in the basement. Gates would be erected initially until stores are opened.
Also included in the project is restoration of 30,000 square feet on the second floor of the building. Once complete, the offices of the Knox County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the WDC would move to the second floor to make more room for performance space on the first floor. Limited rehearsal area would also be available on the second floor.
Crow credits the high demand for ThePlace@TheWoodward for the need to expand.
Other aspects of the project include first-floor facades, window and door rehabilitation and restoration, sidewalk replacement, and rear lower facade restoration.
Crow anticipates a total cost for the project of $600,000. The WDC will provide the matching funds necessary for the CDBG resulting in no money required from the city.
“We have cash available or committed,” Crow explained to council.
The WDC will pay for the grant writing, environmental studies as well as administration of the grant, if approved.
Crow said the grants are expected to be awarded in September and communities allotted funds would have 18 months to finish the projects.