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Archive for Thursday, November 14, 2002

Merchant restoring turn-of-century building

November 14, 2002

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Sarah Fayman hopes she is seeing the future of downtown Lawrence by uncovering its past.

Fayman, owner of SarahâÂÂs Fabrics, 925 Mass., is knee-deep in her second major downtown renovation project within the past year. Earlier this year, Fayman completed a renovation of her storeâÂÂs facade and parts of the inside to make the old two-story brick building look more like it did when it was built near the turn of the century.

Now Fayman is tackling the other half of the building, where Stoneback Appliances was located until it moved this summer. The project includes a new facade for the building that will match the one built for the fabric shop. She also may restore the wood floors and tin ceiling.

âÂÂOur guiding idea has been to go back to what was,â Fayman said.

Fayman hopes it is an idea that catches on with other downtown building owners. To some degree it already has. She hired fellow downtown building owner David Millstein, who renovated Liberty Hall and the Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop, to design the renovation and do part of the contracting work. She said his projects had served as an example to her and hoped her projects would inspire others in turn.

âÂÂI hope it becomes a bit of a trend,â Fayman said. âÂÂI think it is what makes downtown Lawrence such a popular choice for out-of-towners. We hear all the time how these old buildings create such a nice ambiance for shopping.âÂÂ

Dennis Enslinger, the cityâÂÂs historic resources administrator, believes the downtown may be at the beginning of a resurgence of renovations.

âÂÂWeâÂÂre getting quite a few phone calls about whatâÂÂs available,â Enslinger said. âÂÂI think the hope is some of the buildings that have had significant modifications over the years may be changed to look a little more original.âÂÂ

City officials are creating an application to declare most of Massachusetts Street and parts of New Hampshire and Vermont streets as a national historic district. Officials hope to have the application process done by the end of next summer. The designation would cut down on the amount of paperwork and costs property owners have to go through to qualify for the state and federal tax credits, which can be as large as 45 percent of the cost of the project.

Without the designation individual property owners have to go through the process of having their building listed on the state or national register of historic places. Enslinger estimated that could cost upwards of $2,000 and take several months. With the designation, many downtown properties automatically would qualify for the tax credits.

Fayman hopes the designation becomes a reality because the renovation projects can be expensive. She declined to say how much she had spent on the projects.

She said the results had convinced her it was money well spent.

âÂÂWe have found lots of treasures, and that makes it very exciting,â Fayman said. âÂÂEvery morning I come to work, I realize how delightful it is.âÂÂ

Fayman also thinks it will be good for business. She said the old-style building gives people another reason to come into her store. It also has helped her find new tenants for the former Stoneback Appliance store.

She said she has a preliminary deal with two existing retailers in Lawrence that want to move into the space so they can expand their stores. She declined to name the businesses. The building also is home to Calamity Janesâ Clothing, which Fayman said will remain in the building.

The renovation work is expected to be complete by February.

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