Owner hopes state grant will help restore Eudora’s oldest downtown building
photo by: Elvyn Jones
The owner of the oldest surviving building in downtown Eudora is hoping a state grant will help restore an important landmark in the city’s commercial history.
Last year, GW Weld purchased the 19th-century building, which was originally a grocery store but has also served a variety of other retail uses, at 714 Main St. in Eudora. The northern half of the structure was built in 1860 by Asher Cohn, one of the town’s early German Jewish settlers. The southern half was added later in the 19th century.
Weld and his wife, Kathy Weld, are no strangers to owning older properties. They have two other downtown storefronts — Kathy Weld’s Zeb’s Coffeehouse opened last year at 724 Main St., and GW Weld’s property management firm, Cornerstone Properties, is located at 707 Main St.
But the 5,000-square-foot 714 Main St. building represents a much greater restoration challenge than the couple’s other downtown properties, GW Weld said. He plans on installing a new roof, reinforcing the exterior walls, doing structural work on the second floor, rehabilitating the foundation, adding a new staircase and installing new plumbing, electrical, and heating and cooling systems.
And with the city’s help, Weld is trying to get state money to cover some of those costly repairs. Last month, the Eudora City Commission agreed to apply for a $250,000 Kansas Department of Commerce Small Cities Community Development Block Grant. The grant program is designed to help municipalities improve their downtown areas.
“The building has gotten into such a state of disrepair it will take a lot of resources to restore it,” Weld said. “Fortunately, there are resources available. It just takes a lot of time and effort to learn the process of accessing those resources.”
The city’s intervention was necessary because private parties can’t apply for the grants on their own, Eudora City Manager Barack Matite said; rather, cities must apply on the property owners’ behalf. If the application is approved, the grant funds will pass through the city to the property owner, but the city won’t shoulder any of the financial burden itself, Matite said.
Weld is required to make a matching contribution and has agreed to invest $87,000 toward the building’s renovation, Matite wrote in a March memo to commissioners.
The Department of Commerce will announce the grant awards at the end of May, Weld said. Should his project be selected, he would look to start work on the building in early July with the goal of completing the project by the end of the year, he said.
Weld said he’s happy to invest in historic architectural works. He sees buildings like this one as key to revitalizing downtown areas.
“I always tell people you can build new, beautiful things, but you can’t replace something that has history and a story,” he said. “My wife and I are dedicated to rebuilding downtown Eudora into something special.”
Once the building is renovated, Weld plans to use it for commercial office spaces. Weld said that kind of use was in demand and will drive future retail development downtown.
He said he’s already agreed to a lease with an Edward Jones financial consultant who looked unsuccessfully for two years for an appropriate space in Eudora. Others have expressed interest in leasing space in the building, but he is delaying further discussion until a grant decision is made, he said.
Weld is also working with the Kansas State Historic Preservation Office to ensure the renovations preserve the building’s historic character, and he plans to have it listed with the National Register of Historic Places.
“We don’t want to just Band-Aid this project,” Weld said. “We want this building to be beautiful. It’s not going to be cheap to get there.”
photo by: Submitted photo