KEARNEY — Brent and Theresa Yaw still are in the early stages of renovating the upstairs space of 2224 Central Ave. but they hope their work will inspire other downtown Kearney building owners to do the same.The Kearney couple is working to redevelop the second story of the structure into three or four apartments.
“We want to take some of the fear out, or maybe put some more fear in,” Brent laughed. “It’s expensive to do. But the city seems willing to help and we’re going to at least attempt to go through the historic tax credits and see how that works.”
In February the couple purchased the building, which they believe was finished in 1913, for more than $180,000. Kearney Centre Vacuum currently is a tenant on the main floor.
The Yaws previously had considered building a new facility but ideally they had hoped to refurbish one of the older downtown buildings. They made the decision that they wanted the building as soon as they toured it for the first time.
“We loved the building,” Brent said.
The hallways and stairs were big and wide, the ceilings on the main and upper levels were 14 feet high and there were seven to eight rooms on the upper level. The couple believes that all the original walls still are up.
“It’s just an opportunity to turn back time … and rehab the building into apartments in downtown Kearney.”
The Yaws have worked with the University of Nebraska at Kearney, who, Brent said, is an excellent resource to all Kearney building owners, to research the structure.
“So far we know the other side of the building was a music shop and then our side of the building, on the main level, was a china painting shop. At some point in time there was a restaurant.”
On the upper level, the space was used as office suites until the 1940s when it was converted into a boarding room until about 1992, the Yaws believe.
So far, Brent and his family have done some exploratory demolition on the building as well as removed mattresses, couches and kitchen appliances previous tenants left behind. Eventually, they hope to do some work on the exterior of the structure to make it look more like what it looked like in 1913 based on some photos they’ve acquired.
Brent estimated the cost to renovate the building probably will be $350,000-$400,000.
To support the redevelopment process, the Yaws are pursuing historic tax credits. They hope to use them to repair the large windows that overlook the downtown streets.
“Lot of rules when it comes to it (historic tax credits) — which people are afraid of — but you can talk about what needs to be done. There’s multiple ways of getting it done.”
To get the building ready to be inhabitable, the Yaws will have to have electrical work done, the plumbing redone, insulation put in and place in a fire suppression system.
“It is expensive but there are a lot of people — whether it’s the city of Kearney, the (Kearney) CRA, the (Nebraska State) Historical Society — that are trying to pave the way for some of the cost. Based on some of the analysis I did, if you can get help for around 20-25 percent of the cost, it probably makes it financially feasible.”
Brent and Theresa hope that by being open about the costs, challenges and successes of renovating these old buildings, it will inspire others to follow suit and pursue available resources. While it can be a costly endeavor, they believe keeping the downtown district updated is key to keeping it alive.
“I want to live in a town that has a downtown in it as opposed to one that doesn’t have a downtown,” Brent said. “If you want a vibrant town, you have to have a good downtown.”