Derek Landy once said, “Every solution to every problem is simple. It's the distance between the two where the mystery lies.” For the Paducah Chamber of Commerce and Paducah Economic Development, the distance was .2 miles.
The problem? The two shared a drafty, dimly lit, outdated building that had been donated to the city in the 90s. It simply did not reflect the spirit of either organization and created the wrong first impression for visiting businesses and companies.
Both had relocation in their strategic plans, but what would that look like? The task was of ultimate importance to the long-term vitality of both groups. The solution had to be as near-perfect as possible. Enter A&K Construction's Kenny Hunt.
"Chad Chancellor called and really wanted to move on it," says Kenny. "I went downtown and looked at existing properties and even thought about something new. But when we looked at the old railroad freight office, I thought it had real possibilities."
The Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway built the structure at the corner of South 3rd and Washington Streets in 1925. Large doors on the northeast side of the building accommodated train cars (mostly refrigerated). Produce, meat and other commodities shipped via rail were unloaded. Goods were then redistributed to trucks on the other side of the building. The second floor contained offices. The building served the same purpose for most of its life until the railroad pulled out in the mid-1980s. For a while, it was an antique mall, and, for most of the past decade, it sat empty.
"The roof had been maintained," adds Kenny. "Every owner took care of it, and usually a bad roof is what destroys a building. It was very dark inside, but we quickly found out it didn't have to be. There were layers upon layers of additional work. There were three or four layers of ceilings!"
One unique feature was the suspension of the second floor from the roof. "They wanted to keep the first floor open for moving shipments around, and support beams for the upper floor would have been in the way. Instead of supporting it from below, it was hung from above."
The building was stripped down inside to the basic structure, insulation was added to exterior walls and in the attic space, and the original openings on both sides were uncovered to allow light to once again flow through.
"We wanted it to remain intact and look like it has all these years while also becoming a functional space for the Chamber and Paducah Economic Development." A&K even utilized a company in St. Louis that deals in antique brick in order to match the building's original brick when filling in a small area on the front. Two original clerks desks along with bookcases were salvaged and are now being utilized, and the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway sign still hangs over the entrance.
The desire to preserve an existing and historic building coupled with the needs of two modern organizations blossomed into an office space befitting Paducah. And it's already starting to pay off. "The first meeting we had in that building just blew our visitors away. It really turned out well and was a godsend for our development folks. It speaks well for the Chamber and Paducah Economic Development to have the foresight to preserve this part of the downtown area."
Here is a gallery of before and after photos: