Scot Holcomb never had intentions of going into the building renovation business, or the landlord business. Yet he has found himself in both - in what may be one of the most talked about happenings in Broken Bow this year.
Downtown Broken Bow is alive with history and culture. Perhaps nothing demonstrates that history more than the beautiful architecture that remains in many of the old buildings in the downtown area. The loss of one of those historic buildings in a 2007 fire, reminded all citizens of Broken Bow just how special - and irreplaceable that history is.
A few months ago, Holcomb received a call from friend Mo Hunsberger, encouraging him to take a look at what is known locally as the Glaze Building. The building had been for sale for a while, and owner Maxine Glaze suggested Mo talk to Holcomb about possibly purchasing the building for use as a warehouse.
Holcomb was working in North Dakota when he got the call from Mo, but when he returned he agreed to take a look at the building. Walking through the main level of the building, Holcomb says he could envision it being a nice warehouse area for him. That is something he has been in need of for awhile.
He then asked Mo about the upstairs, and just out of curiosity decided to take a look. There were three apartments in the upstairs of the building, all in pretty rough shape, says Holcomb. Years of neglect had taken their toll, and Holcomb knew if anything could be done with the apartments it was going to take a lot of work, and a lot of money.
“I asked Mo how much she wanted for the building, and she said the asking price was $69,000,” Holcomb recalls of that day. “I told her there was no way I could make it work for that much money. She told me to make an offer, and I told her I was afraid what I would offer might offend her! But she told me to make an offer anyway, so I said I’ll give you $25,000.
“Mo called Maxine right then and told her what I had offered, and Maxine said ‘I’ll take it.’ At that moment I was kind of in shock, and kind of wondering what I had just gotten myself into!”, Holcomb laughs.
With an offer to purchase the building on the table, Holcomb began talking to contractors trying to get some idea of what he might be looking at in terms of cost for renovating the building. He knew the big cost would be plumbing and electrical, so that is where he started with bids.
Holcomb says he had a pretty strict budget to work with, as he was funding the project entirely on his own - “well me and my banker” - he laughs.
The deal was closed for the purchase of the Glaze Building at the end of August, and work began within a couple of weeks. Holcomb says he was aware that people were walking and driving by trying to figure out what he was doing there. As work progressed and word got out of the project, curiosity peaked.
“I got 48 calls in the first 10 days after we put the steel beams through the building for the balconies,” says Holcomb.
That was when people realized the upstairs of the building was being renovated into apartments, and all those calls were from people interested in renting one.
Holcomb says when he began the project he looked at some old pictures of the downtown area of Broken Bow, and noticed several of the buildings had balconies on them. That was kind of a light bulb moment for him, and he began exploring options for adding balconies to his apartments.
For safety reasons, he didn’t want balconies supported by beams below. “The last thing I wanted was someone driving along and running into one of those posts and knocking someone off one of the balconies!”, Holcomb explains.
So he and an engineer got together to design free standing balconies, supported by steel beams through the brick walls of the building. Holcomb says it was his goal to have the balconies draw more attention to the building - to make it stand out in the crowd, so to speak. It worked!
Maintaining much of the original charm and character of the building was an important factor for Holcomb during the renovation process, and that is evident as you tour the apartments - which the public had an opportunity to do during an open house Tuesday. Big new windows have been installed along the south side of the building, and a beautiful entryway greeting future tenants and guests.
As you enter the building you will notice a full laundry facility. Holcomb says he also plans to add some exercise equipment to this area for use by the apartments tenants.
There is a fairly long flight of stairs to climb, but it is worth it. The entire second floor of the building has been completely renovated. The first stop down the hall is a studio apartment, second is a one bedroom apartment, and at the end of the hall is a large two bedroom apartment.
All three apartments are very tastefully decorated and completely furnished -including bedding, silverware, dishes, towels, coffee makers and anything else you can think of to make an apartment feel like home. When asked why he decided to furnish the apartments, Holcomb replied, “Did you see those stairs?”
Yes, the apartments come furnished mostly as a courtesy to his renters. Moving the furniture in was made easier with the use of a scissor lift; the furniture was lifted up and taken in through the balcony doors.
The original woodwork throughout the upstairs was retained as much as possible.
“I told the crew if a window is a little crooked, leave it that way. We want to keep as much of the character of the building as we can,” says Holcomb.
The character of the exterior of the building was also preserved with the repainting of two of the advertising signs on the south side of the building. There were more signs there, but Holcomb says these two were the only ones recognizable enough to repaint. He hired Jennifer Ulrich, of Ord, to take on that project, and says she has done an amazing job.
Initially the plan was to renovate the apartments and use the lower level of the building as a warehouse for his business, Holcomb Mechanical. However, he has since had second thoughts on that.
“I didn’t think anybody would be crazy about having a warehouse right under their home,” he explains.
So instead, the main level is being transformed in to retail space - 3,000 square feet of retail space. New windows, like the ones on the south side, are being installed in the front as well.
“Within a week or two the front of this building will look completely different,” Holcomb says.
Though the project has been demanding, Holcomb says he has enjoyed it and considers it a long-term investment. He says he has been approached by a number of other downtown business owners about doing a similar project to the upstairs of their buildings where apartments were once housed. Holcomb says he would like to take on one more such project.
“I’m afraid if I did too many they would lose their uniqueness,” he explains.
All three apartments in the newly renovated Executive Plaza are already leased, but Holcomb wanted to give the public an opportunity to see them by hosting the open house. He also took the opportunity to benefit a local cause in the process, asking everyone who toured the apartments to donate $1 or an item for the food pantry.
That fundraising, like his renovation project, was a huge success!
*For photos of the Executive Plaza, see this week's Custer County Chief.