February 8, 2014
Renovation revives village history
HOMER — As local developer Tom Niederhofer finishes renovating three adjacent North Main Street buildings, he takes pride in restoring a part of local history, where Francis Carpenter, Abraham Lincoln’s personal portrait painter, once lived in an apartment.
The history and architecture of the buildings were among the reasons Niederhofer was excited to work on the project at the commercial buildings at 19-23 N. Main St.
“I think it’s (history) fun,” he said. “I love Homer for that reason.”
Niederhofer said he was approached by the previous owners of the building — formerly the site of Homer Laundry & Cleaners — two years ago. It was shortly after he had purchased Briggs Manor, another historic building on the other side of a parking lot, and he said it was an opportunity he could not pass up.
“It came up for sale and they approached me on it,” Niederhofer said. “It took me a little while to think about it and I said, ‘I’ll give it a shot.’”
Originally a $200,000 investment, Niederhofer said the buildings were completely gutted and he spent an additional $300,000 plus a few out-of-pocket expenses on renovations, which included replacing the plumbing, heating and electrical systems and insulating interior walls — all while doing his best to keep the inside looking historically accurate compared to when it was built in 1827.
The three main buildings combined create space for five different stores. Three smaller stores, approximately 950 square feet each, occupy the center building and are connected by doors, which Niederhofer said was done intentionally.
“I’m trying to get businesses that complement each other,” Niederhofer said. “I put these doors in just in case the stores are compatible, so they can open up between the stores. So far, the people I have interested all like that.”
The two larger, 1,800-square-foot spaces differ in appearance. The sun-bathed, southernmost space has the feeling of a concert hall, with a section of raised flooring and a row of tall windows facing historic downtown Homer.
The northernmost space is supported by four large columns in the center of the room and the large storefront windows boast a panoramic view of the intricate and detailed facades of the large old homes across North Main Street.
Each of the stores will have access to its own inventory storage space and a shipping and receiving garage that runs the length of the back of the building.
There are also three apartments on the second floor in the center building — two 950-square-foot, one-bedroom apartments currently occupied by tenants and one 1,800-square-foot, two- bedroom space Niederhofer said he wants to rent.
As for the stores, Niederhofer said he started showing the spaces last week and he already has prospective tenants for four out of the five spaces. With the first, main phase of the project set to be completed by the end of the month, new shops could be in Homer as soon as early spring.
Mayor Genevieve Suits said she is happy with the way Niederhofer’s project has turned out and the businesses the building has the potential to attract are welcomed.
“I’m thrilled he’s rejuvenating that section of the village; he brought it back to life.” Suits said. “We’re excited to have more small businesses come in, we’d be glad to have them here.”
Niederhofer said he has plans to make the building wheelchair accessible and add to its aesthetics. While there are still some renovations to be done, all of the hard work is completed and he added he was glad he was able to preserve the historic building.
“If it wasn’t for this, it would’ve really fallen apart,” Niederhofer said. “A year from now, all this will be flowing in a natural way.”
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