Woodward Opera House First Floor Commercial Space Receives State Occupancy Approval | Business
MOUNT VERNON – One of the most visible commercial properties in downtown Mount Vernon has received state occupancy approval, paving the way for potential redevelopment in the future.
The first-floor corner property of the Woodward Opera House, located at 101 S. Main St., received final site approval on June 23, according to building manager Danny Gum. This will allow doing business there.
According to Gum, the desire to strengthen leadership is to stick to the original plan of the space, which is currently called âHarvest Market & CafÃ©â.
âThe plan is to have a delicatessen, a bakery, a cafe with seating – a grocery store, similar to Whole Foods,â Gum said. âIt’s just going to be locally grown produce, meats, things like that. “
The corner property has been vacant since 2016, Gum said, when Sips Coffee House left. It was previously home to various men’s clothing stores, including Colonial Men’s Shop, according to records kept by the Knox County Historical Society.
The neighboring property, which will be part of the future market space, housed various shoe stores before briefly becoming the home of the Paragraphs bookstore.
Gum said in late June that Woodward’s management was open to hearing proposals for the newly approved space. While the Woodward could run its own market and grocery store, Gum said potential tenants are also welcome to contact the team with ideas.
âWe are considering doing this ourselves, and we are also looking at proposals from potential tenants,â Gum said. “We’re not ruling out anything at the moment – in fact, I have a meeting tomorrow with a future tenant. And then it will have to go to the board of directors, and they will make a decision.”
Gum declined to comment on a potential timeline for the project.
âI don’t want to raise expectations, so I’d rather not say one way or the other,â he said. “We have our own wishes, I’ll put it that way. Whether or not they are realistic or not, or whether they come true, remains to be seen.”
The space totals 5,000 square feet, according to Gum, and consists of two main rooms: one with a commercial kitchen, service counters, and a seating area; and the other lined with accessible storage shelves.
Gum said a health-centric grocery store once occupied the space, and it has succeeded. This fueled the management team’s interest in redesigning a similar concept.
âThere was a market there. There was only locally grown produce and meat. And it worked well – it worked really well. The people downtown loved it,â said Gum.
âSo with the addition of new apartments here, the move from the big cities to this region and the demand for healthy food, we just think that would be the best use for all spaces. “
Gum added, however, that this idea may not come to fruition. Planning is still in its infancy.
âIt’s our wish – it’s our prayer – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what’s going to happen,â he said.
COMPLETE RESTORATION: On the same day, the state approved Woodward’s first floor corner property, final touches were made to the decades-long building restoration project.
The Woodward installed new signage on the north side of the building, intended to replicate the original appearance of the opera house.
According to Gum, the oldest available photo of the Woodward was taken in 1885 (about 35 years after it opened). We see the letters “Woodward Opera House” painted in white on the north side of the building, facing the public square.
âIt’s part of restoration. Every time you restore a building, rather than reusing it, you want to restore it to its original appearance,â Gum explained. “This is the final phase of the restoration of the building. The final phase. Everything else is restored as it was in 1885, except for this.”
Jeff Gottke, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Knox County Landmarks Foundation and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Knox County Historical Society, said this finishing touch symbolizes the community’s passion for preserving its history.
âI think the County of Knox is very proud of its history,â said Gottke, âand it’s nice to see that this is preserved and celebrated with historic-looking signage on one of the most important buildings. County of Knox Historic Sites. “
Restoration of the Woodward Opera House began in the 1970s, according to Sound website, but did not gain momentum until 1994, when the Knox Arts and Culture Partnership was formed. The Woodward Development Corporation was born in 1997 and purchased the building in 1998, opening the door to a 20-year, $ 21 million restoration effort that would include $ 11 million in state tax credits.
The Woodward Opera House hosted its first performance in 98 years on January 24, 2019. Since then, Gum has said building management has focused on finishing the work – preparing the corner space on the first floor. for state approval, so that it can pass structural safety inspections and add the finishing touches to the building facade.
âWe were still working at the Harvest Market & CafÃ©. When the building opened, occupation was granted by the state on all other parts of the building except this one – it was still under construction, âGum explained.
“And just today – just today – the state inspector was here, the structural inspector, and that was the last piece of the puzzle to get an occupation on this. So it’s over now. too.”
Gum found it hard to describe the feeling of seeing the project finished.
âChill bumps. Relief. It’s so nice to have this occupation here. It was like our last stop. I can’t explain it, “he said.” Like I said every time the inspector signed I literally got chills. Just elation.