McEldowney Building restoration nearing completion

Downtown Winchester is expe­ri­enc­ing some­thing of a renais­sance with the open­ing of new restau­rants, bou­tique shops, a micro­brew­ery, and even a distillery.

Largely over­looked, how­ev­er, is one of its biggest restora­tion projects, the McEldowney Building. 

The tallest com­mer­cial build­ing in the heart of down­town had seen bet­ter days when two young investors, Adam Kidd, and Demetrius Fassas, along with a silent part­ner, Demetrius’s first cousin, Matthew, bought it in September 2019 and began work­ing to bring it back to life.

“We decid­ed to take a chance on Winchester,” Demetrius said.

The deal was finan­cial­ly doable, and the loca­tion was ide­al – right off Main Street on the cour­t­house square. And they liked the town, not only because of its prox­im­i­ty to Lexington, but because of the revi­tal­iza­tion they saw hap­pen­ing around it.

“We have three new, big ten­ants mov­ing in over the next three months, includ­ing where the ceram­ic stu­dio used to be. Keep an eye out for those businesses.”

Adam Kidd

“You come down­town on a Saturday after­noon, and there are peo­ple walk­ing the streets,” and it wasn’t like that a few years ago, Adam said. “There is momentum.”

“Both Adam and I were liv­ing there ini­tial­ly when we got start­ed. I was there for the first year when we bought the build­ing. And it was real­ly heart­en­ing to see down­town busi­ness own­ers that were talk­ing to each oth­er and com­ing togeth­er and try­ing to fig­ure out ways that we can dri­ve more busi­ness into Winchester,” Demetrius said.

Four years lat­er, the own­ers have spent close to $1.5 mil­lion on the build­ing, includ­ing the pur­chase price. It is near­ly full, includ­ing the state Administrative Office of the Courts, which leas­es space for judi­cial and coun­ty attor­ney offices, an artist’s stu­dio, an architect’s office, union head­quar­ters, and a large apartment.

Nearly all of the ten­ants are local, Adam said.

Until recent­ly, Created by You, a ceram­ic art stu­dio, leased an old bank build­ing the part­ners own on Main Street and Broadway that is attached to the McEldowney Building. That space is also being refurbished.

“We have three new, big ten­ants mov­ing in over the next three months, includ­ing where the ceram­ic stu­dio used to be,” Adam said last Sunday. “Keep an eye out for those businesses.”

Demetrius said they would have liked to have bought the old McGuire Drug Store build­ing at the cor­ner of Main and Cleveland Avenue, but it was bought by a Louisville investor they know and like.

Interior view
A view of one of the refur­bished inte­ri­or spaces of the McEldowney Building. 

“It’s one of our biggest regrets” that they couldn’t include it, he said.

They’re about two-thirds of the way toward fin­ish­ing the build­ing, although it may nev­er be com­plete­ly fin­ished, because as ten­ants come and go, there’s more work to be done.

Demetrius and Adam have known each oth­er since high school. Demetrius is the exec­u­tive direc­tor of a non­prof­it “sober liv­ing home” in Montana, and Matthew is a musi­cian in South Carolina. Adam is the project admin­is­tra­tor for their com­pa­ny, DAM Holdings Inc., and is the hands-on devel­op­er of the prop­er­ty, as well as oth­er prop­er­ties they’ve purchased.

“Everybody has their full-time job. My job is paint­ing walls,” Adam quipped.

Writing grant pro­pos­als and things like that is Demetrius’ area of expertise.

The Fassases and Kidd were all in their late 20s when they got involved in devel­op­ment as a way of mak­ing mon­ey for a com­fort­able retirement. 

“We have learned so much in the last five years about devel­op­ing. We’ve learned so much about run­ning a busi­ness,” Demetrius said.

The orig­i­nal M.T. McEldowney Building, named for Winchester busi­ness­man Morgan Thomas McEldowney (1865−1934) was erect­ed in 1906–1907 as a four-sto­ry build­ing, and it was destroyed by fire the fol­low­ing year. At the time, its ten­ants includ­ed the U.S. Post Office, the Clark County Board of Education, and sev­er­al busi­ness­es and lawyers’ offices, accord­ing to Clark County his­to­ri­an Harry Enoch. (WinCity Voices, Nov. 30, 2022)

After the fire, the build­ing was replaced with a five-sto­ry build­ing (six, includ­ing an under­ground park­ing garage) that was built almost entire­ly of con­crete, steel, and brick to reduce the chances of a dis­as­trous recurrence.

“It was built to be fire­proof,” Demetrius remarked.

Demetrius said the inte­ri­or walls were ter­ra­cot­ta brick, and they removed tons of mate­r­i­al when they ren­o­vat­ed the fifth floor.

“We built it back with steel studs, which are much lighter,” he said.

Exterior view
A view of the exte­ri­or of the McEldowney Building dur­ing ren­o­va­tion work. 

At the same time, Adam said, he and his part­ners are also try­ing to be “his­tor­i­cal­ly mind­ed” and use some of the orig­i­nal mate­ri­als because they are stronger and will last longer than mate­r­i­al that can be bought at a local lum­ber store.

They have used orig­i­nal doors and light fix­tures, for exam­ple, but have put in new wiring, plumb­ing, and win­dows and have made the build­ing “cli­mate con­trolled” throughout.

“It is an awe­some build­ing. It was very lav­ish when it was built, so we’re try­ing to save that ritzi­ness, that orig­i­nal feel to it,” he said.

They decid­ed not to apply for his­toric preser­va­tion tax cred­its, Demetrius said, because try­ing to restore 180 win­dows to his­toric stan­dards, for exam­ple, would have been cost-pro­hib­i­tive. But they are doing what they can to return it to its orig­i­nal glo­ry and make it a “com­plete­ly pro­fes­sion­al and hab­it­able” mod­ern office space that will meet the needs of their ten­ants and pay off for the investors in the long run.

“We’re going to keep that build­ing stand­ing for anoth­er hun­dred years,” Adam said.

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