Athens Receives Armory Grant

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The city of Athens may be one step closer to bringing new life to the former National Guard armory on Carpenter Street as it was recently awarded a grant to undergo a feasibility study.

During Monday’s Athens City Council meeting, it was announced that the city is the recipient of a grant from the Ohio History Connection (the state historical society) in the amount of $12,638.

According to Athens City Planner Paul Logue, the estimated cost of the feasibility study is $22,400 and the city’s share of the project will be $9,725. However, the city will spend just under $5,000 in cash for the project. Logue said the remaining amount will come from in-kind work from Logue and volunteers.

The armory turns 100 this year. The city purchased the building from the National Guard in 1997 for $300,000. Several uses have been proposed for the historic building over the years, including a performing arts space, public office space and as a location for the Athens County Historical Society and Museum. However, currently the building is only used for storage of records and old equipment for the city.

Last year, Mayor Paul Wiehl convened an ad hoc committee to make recommendations about what to do with the 12,000-square-foot building. The committee recommended two things. The first was to update a 2003 study to examine the cost to update the building with heating and air conditioning, installing an elevator, making the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and make building envelope improvements including walls, roof and foundation.

The second task the committee recommended was to complete a feasibility study to find the best use for the armory.

According to Logue, the city is currently working with RVC Architects to accomplish the first task. The recently awarded grant will allow the city to move forward with the second portion.

Logue said since the main floor of the armory has a large basketball court, it has been suggested that the building be used as an assembly space, which could be utilized for performances, banquets, wedding receptions, workshops, etc. It was also proposed that the basement area could be used for offices or storage.

The study will look at whether those use suggestions are viable ones and if there is a demand in the community for such uses. Logue said a request for proposals will likely be submittedin the next couple weeks for a consultant. He said he hopes the feasibility study will be completed by the end of the year — likely in the fall. Public workshops will likely be held to gain community input for the project.