City may spend $300,000 to start restoration of historic building

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Lexington may spend up to $300,000 on a historic building in hopes the work will entice a private business or non-profit to take it over and finish the job.

The city owns the Fifth and Chestnut building near downtown. It once housed Palmer Pharmacy, the first Black-owned pharmacy in the city. But it’s fallen into serious disrepair.

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The city set aside $300,000 last fall as a possible incentive to get some group to tackle the project, but it got no takers. Tuesday, the Urban County Council’s Budget Committee recommended spending the money on environmental work, a roof and structural repairs with an eye on that being enough attraction to get the private sector involved.

City leaders acknowledge they are caught in a difficult position.

“To be very honest, we’re between a rock and a hard place. We have got this building that the Historical Society wants to put on the register, but they haven’t done that yet. Then we have the first African-American pharmacy, then we have this other issue and that is that this building belongs to us and we’re leaving this building in deplorable shape when we would be all over somebody else for doing the same thing,” Sally Hamilton, the city’s chief administrative officer, told committee members.

The full Urban County Council will vote at its meeting Thursday. The city thinks the full renovation will cost about $900,000.