Cleaned-up lumberyard attracts attention

Developers are showing interest in site that’s part of riverfront development plan

By Ryan Quinn Published:

Three developers have shown interest in the former site of the Frankfort Lumber & Manufacturing Company, says tourism director Joy Jeffries.

“Two of them are very plausible,” Jeffries told the City Commission Monday. “One of them has called me weekly ever since I met with him about six or eight weeks ago with more information.”

Jeffries declined to release further information on the developers, except to say that they had contacted her.

The lumberyard, located near the corner of Capital Avenue and Battle Alley, closed nine years ago and was leveled this year. The site, owned by Frank McGrath, the former president of the lumber company, has been appraised at $225,000.

Jeffries said that during the several years she’d been working on the future of the site, she got no nibbles from developers. With the poor economy, the city decided it was best that the abandoned buildings be demolished so the site at least looked good. That, apparently, was key.

“Immediately, when people could see what we could see in our heads,” the developers came calling, says Jeffries, executive director of the Frankfort/Franklin County Tourist & Convention Commission.

The former lumberyard’s future is part of a riverfront development plan announced in late 2009. Jeffries envisions a building on the lot with parking on the ground level; a second floor with offices, a signature restaurant and shops; and a third level with condos. She said residents of the condos would be able to see the Capitol.

“We see this as the pivotal tax revenue enhancer of the whole plan,” said Jeffries.

The decision over the future of the site ultimately rests with McGrath, the owner, though Jeffries said he is on board with the plan.

During her update to the City Commission on the rest of the riverfront development plan, Jeffries also announced that the $290,000, 50-passenger floating environmental science barge, envisioned by Kentucky State University, would be completed by the end of this month, but will be dry-docked until the threat of floods is over in the spring.

She also spoke of a preliminary plan to build three parks for children of all age levels, including a skate park for teenagers, on Wilkinson Boulevard. The parks would be built on land donated to the tourism commission by the late Frankfort businessman and landlord Rodney Ratliff.

Also discussed at Monday’s work session:

>The commission considered seeking public input to create a priority list for sidewalk construction and repair before the budgeting process begins in the spring. Public Works Director Jeff Hackbart said there might be opportunities to add sidewalks onto existing roads while repairing them.

“You’re going to get some free sidewalks because the road is going to have to be rebuilt anyway,” Hackbart said.

Commissioner Sellus Wilder said he thought it was important to lay new sidewalks as opposed to simply maintaining current ones.

“We have some areas of town that are purely traffic-centered roads that still function as pedestrian thoroughfares and so we’ve got kids walking to school and we’ve got mothers pushing strollers etc. either on the shoulder or with traffic itself,” Wilder said.

>Brent Sweger, chairman of Walk/Bike Frankfort, said he had submitted a revised proposal to the traffic committee to place bike lanes on both sides of the hill on Louisville Road. The new plan would create a traditional bike lane on the uphill side and a wider shared traffic lane on the downhill side, where bikes can keep more up to pace with vehicles.

>Jeffries submitted a resolution to the commission to create a task force to help Frankfort gain the Kentucky Trail Town designation. The program is designed to help small communities take advantage of adventure tourism opportunities in their area. The City Commission will vote on the resolution.

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