RDC purchases Estes car lot to create co-working space

Leeann Doerflein | The Lebanon ReporterFUTURE SITE: The former Bill Estes Chrysler Dodge, at 309 N. Lebanon St., Lebanon, will soon transform into a co-working space and maker's space. The former car dealership is being purchased by the Lebanon Redevelopment Commission for $520,000.

The Lebanon Redevelopment Commission has purchased the former Bill Estes Dodge Chrysler dealership, 309 N. Lebanon St., with the hopes of creating a unique co-working space.

The building is being purchased with Tax Increment Financing funds, and is located within the downtown TIF district.

The purchase of the land for $520,000, authorized by the Lebanon RDC last month, is expected to be finalized this week, according to Lebanon Mayor Matt Gentry. The four parcels of land include the two-story building that housed the offices, showroom and garage of the dealership, as well as the vacant lot across Lebanon Street where cars were displayed.

The purchase price was not agreed upon by all RDC members, as member Jim Morog voted "nay" in objection, going so far as to call it a “bad deal” at the meeting on July 10.

Morog said that, while he is in favor of the idea of the project, he thinks the price was inflated because adjacent land downtown would not be sold for such a high price.

“I’m reluctant to purchase two acres of land in downtown Lebanon for a half million dollars on the basis that it could be used for a car dealership,” Morog said. “No one would ever pay that much for it as retail space in downtown Lebanon.”

Gentry said the price is not concerning for him, noting that while the appraisals did figure in how much a car dealership would typically be worth, the appraisers also considered the going rates of similar properties in Lebanon.

The building was appraised by two professional appraisers, and the city arrived on a purchase price with Estes based upon the appraisals.

Once the building is purchased, Gentry said, contractors will go in to assess what renovations need to be completed in order to create the space that is imagined.

A committee of individuals is working on a vision for the space that will include both a co-working space where entrepreneurs can build their small business, and a maker’s space where local artisans can come create a variety of wares.

“This will feed on itself and create something even bigger,” Gentry said. “We are hoping to build an environment that will help create businesses founded in Lebanon. When they expand, they will remember us and move into our business park.”

Gentry said combining the co-working space and maker’s space will produce a unique model, not found often in the growing group of co-working spaces around the state. The combined model unites Boone County Economic Development Corporation’s hope for a local maker’s space and the city’s hope for a co-working space into one.

In addition to promoting entrepreneurship, Gentry said this project is expected to draw new interest in downtown and create a better visual for those entering downtown on state Route 39.

As for the vacant lot, Gentry said the committee is also looking into creating an outdoor space where the farmer’s market could be held or where food trucks could gather for a day.

“This space can be a lot of things for Lebanon — that’s one reason why we really wanted to move on this,” he said.

Gentry expects the building to be renovated and ready for entrepreneurs by the end of 2018.

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