Former tobacco warehouse revitalizes downtown Murray

Brock Kirk/The News

Story by Destinee Marking, Staff writer 

The renovation of Murray’s historic Swann Warehouse is bringing optimism to small business owners downtown.

Black Pearl Properties bought Swann Warehouse, located at 111 Poplar St. near the downtown court square, in December 2015 to restore the building and give the old tobacco warehouse a new purpose.

Project Manager Joe Darnall said each floor of the building will serve a different purpose once renovations are complete. He said the third floor will consist of 19 loft apartments and the second floor will be office space. The first floor does not yet have a specific purpose. He said there has been interest expressed for a coffee shop, stores, restaurants and more office space.

Darnall said the first and second floors are set to be completed within the next eight months, while the residential third floor should be finished in the next 12 months.

“It’s been a labor of love, but we’ve enjoyed every second of it,” Darnall said.

One of the goals of the renovation, Darnall said, is to attract people to the idea of living in Murray.

“Our desire is to make a place where young professionals, people who are leaving Murray State looking for careers, are given a reason to stay in Murray and help out this community,” Darnall said

Darnall said a combination of factors led to the company deciding to buy the nearly 100-year-old building, but uniqueness and history played key roles.

“This is a unique structure in Murray,” Darnall said. “There aren’t very many like it, even in the state of Kentucky. To have the opportunity to embrace the past and also bring forth a new life to a building that’s been a part of the fabric of Murray for 100 years, it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

Swann Warehouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in September 2015, which Darnall said brings benefits during the restoration process. He said the finances for this project are coming from Black Pearl Properties itself, but they are also able to utilize the rehabilitation tax credit. This means the company receives a 20 percent tax credit from the federal government.

Darnall said certain parts of the building were in poor condition when it was bought. There was termite damage, rotting wood and damaged flooring. The roof was also allowing water to get into the building. Before moving forward with bigger renovations, he said the roof was stabilized, and the damaged flooring was replaced. So far, cleaning the space is a large portion of what has been completed.

“Our goal has always been to repair and restore, as opposed to replace,” Darnall said.

Given the location of Swann Warehouse, Darnall said he feels that restaurants and stores downtown will benefit from people living and working nearby.

“This is a chance for us to give them more business, but at the same time, it makes our spot more desirable because it’s near all those places,” Darnall said.

Downtown business owners agree increasing residences near the court square will benefit them.

Sheila Webber, owner of Murray’s Florist, said creating more apartments in the area is important.

“I think it’s great because it will bring more business to downtown,” Webber said. “It’s close to downtown, so the first thing they’re going to do is visit restaurants and stores here.”

Casey Kimbro, owner of Farmhouse Apparel & Gifts, said this creation of apartments and others that come in the future will affect her and surrounding businesses in a positive way.

“I think it’ll help,” Kimbro said. “I think we definitely need more apartments because I know around here they’re trying to make it so all these businesses have apartments above them, so it would be great if we had more downtown instead of further away.”

Sue McCoart, owner of Yours, Mine & Ours, said she has had her business downtown since 1975.

During her time as a business owner in Murray, McCoart said she has noticed as more people move here and visit her store. She said she wants this trend to continue.

“The more apartments and the more businesses, Murray will grow, and the court square will become busier,” McCoart said. “We are definitely, I think, on the upswing.”