CANTON — The new look of downtown Canton is stirring up a lot of excitement as Cherokee County works to peel away the aged stucco facade from the historic Jones Building.
The 30-day project to remove the stucco from the turn-of-the-century landmark began Sep. 3, but quickly revealed the original brick and wood-framed windows previously locked away underneath the facade.
Cherokee County is funding the project to remove the facade, but is set to be reimbursed by Westbridge Partners, an Atlanta-based developer which is purchasing the building from the county for $1.8 million.
As a condition of the purchase, Westbridge must receive approval of by the state Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service to redevelop the building under the Federal Historic Tax Incentives Program.
In 2011, downtown Canton was approved as a district with 300 contributing structures and placed on the National Register of Historic Places, but the Jones building was not a contributing structure and must now go through an approval process, said Stefanie Joyner, executive director of the Cherokee County Historical Society.
Joyner said since seeing the revealed facade, she believes the building has a good chance to qualify.
“Now that they’ve exposed the historic facade, it can easily be included in the historic district, which would make it eligible for tax credits,” she said.
According to research completed by the Historical Society, Joyner said the building was constructed in 1914 and the facade was put on in 1970 by the owners of the Jones Mercantile Co., which occupied the building.
“We knew that it was there, and I had suspected it was going to be in very good shape. We’re thrilled. We think it’s going make a huge difference to downtown. It just changes the whole streetscape and makes it more unified,” Joyner said.
Joyner said she is excited about the project.
“It has the sheer size and location in downtown, right on the square. It’s logical that it will become the center of industry again in downtown. I haven’t seen any detailed plans for the building, but mixed use would suit that site very well. We’re excited about the possibilities, Joyner said. “I’m kind of beside myself really. We’re very pleased that the county and the developers are taking this step.”
Chris Faussemagne, founder of Westbridge Partners, said that although they have yet to fully investigate the impact to the historic structure, it appears that the building has been well preserved for the last four decades.
“This is a wonderful old building with great bones. It will be a valuable asset to the continued resurgence of downtown Canton,” Faussemagne said.
Cherokee County Commissioner Harry Johnston said that while it might take some work to restore the original facade, that was to be expected.
“It’s a beautiful old building. Surely it will qualify for state nomination to the National Historic Register. That’s the principal condition of the sales contract,” Johnston said. “The folks who are buying it have a good record at making very positive uses of buildings like this. They should bring some welcome additions to downtown Canton.”