Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 29, 2012

Investing in downtown

Perry Madden brings old buildings into modern days

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — Perry Madden says he hopes to succeed in business while also helping to breathe new life into a few of downtown Ashland’s historic structures.

“It is a business venture, but at the same time we’re concerned about downtown and want to build it back,” Madden said last week during a break from renovations at the Camayo Arcade on Winchester Avenue. “You can spend a lot more money on it than you get return on. Many say they want to see more apartments upstairs, but the cost to do that in some of the taller buildings would make those places unaffordable.

“On multistory buildings like the Sears building, you need things like plumbing and elevators. That gets expensive,” he said, adding it will likely cost a great deal to create apartments on the upper floors of the building at the corner of Winchester Avenue and 17th Street.

“It is going to be hard to find anybody to do it,” he said, considering the expense. Madden said he once had a multimillion-dollar tax credit to use for creation of apartments in the former Sears building, but could not accomplish the task even with the financial incentive.

“I couldn’t do it. They all need kitchens and bathrooms and those are the most expensive areas to do. And elevators are expensive to install and maintain and HVAC is much different in a multistory building like that.”

Madden, 61, grew up in Greenup and has worked in Ashland since 1972 with Buchanan Sound & Communications, now Newtech Systems. His ventures into the restoration of some of Ashland’s prominent old buildings began when the company outgrew office space in Westwood, he said, resulting in the purchase of the former Sears structure.

“Then, basically one thing led to another and we bought the building next door, the old J.C. Penney Co. building, and then the Henry Clay,” Madden recalled.

The Henry Clay, with 52 apartments inside, had many unoccupied units “and some of the others were in pretty bad shape,” Madden said. “So we remodeled all of them.” The Henry Clay, at the corner of Winchester and 18th Street, will soon undergo an extensive downstairs remodeling project as well as upgrades to both its elevators. Once the elevator upgrades are complete, Madden said he will create a tenants’ entrance as well as renovating the lobby, dining room and ballroom.

Madden said he has learned to use quality materials and methods when renovating a structure.

“I always looked at trying to do it the right way. Even if it costs more, you will have less problems down the road,” he said.

With the Sears building, Madden said he is having trouble finding a source for the masonry materials to be replaced on the front of the building. A firm in Cincinnati can recreate the architectural touches if Madden can provide detailed, scale drawings of the items to be replaced.

“I can’t really replace the glass until I get the masonry completed,” he said.

If all goes according to plan, Madden said the exterior of the Sears building could be finished by summer, allowing spaces inside the six-story structure to be modified for each tenant’s needs. The first floor will likely house some sort of retail business, he said, while upper floors may be better suited to office space.

“The thing about that building is that it has 50 parking spaces. It’s just ... you don’t find that in Ashland,” he said.

Madden’s latest project is the historic Camayo Arcade, where he has already replaced single-pane windows with insulated glass, installed new double doors at both ends and in the center of the divided first floor, and has a checklist of other to-do work, including raising the handrail around the second-floor mezzanine before seeking out businesses suitable for the spaces.

“It’s got a lot of empty spots in it and the quickest way to get people in here is to get it remodeled,” he said.

While Madden wants his ventures to be worth the investment, he said the arcade will receive a little extra attention.

“It is a historic building in downtown that I think can be restored and brought back to life. And I am going to be selective on who I allow in here,” he said. “The building should work for different types of business — office and retail.”

Downtown properties in Ashland can be a bargain, Madden said. “It is a good time to invest downtown. I believe the arts district will continue to expand and draw crowds and support other business.”

Madden credits his wife, Susan, for her support as he pursues downtown renovation projects.

“I have a lot of irons in the fire and I think she’d like me to slow down,” he said. “She has been very supportive of me.”

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.