Dozens of Rome residents met with members of the Common Council last night to tour Old City Hall, 207 N. James St., as the building’s renovation project nears completion.
The building was sold was to YES Development by the city in 2014. Since then, YES has redesigned the building’s layout, constructing six apartments on the upper floors, with plans for commercial space at the ground floor.
Residents were able to tour several of the apartments, including one single-bedroom unit and two two-bedroom units, and as project lead Matt Varughese of YES explained, each unit is uniquely designed.
“We took a lot of time and effort into creating each space individually. You’ve all been in hotels and developments that are cookie-cutter versions of each other ... I wanted this building to speak individually to each tenant, because Rome by itself is unique — its not cookie-cutter, and its certainly not repetitive,” he explained to tourists.
Several members of the Common Council expressed approval with the project's progress.
"It's nice — I haven't been in here in a number of months, and (Varughese)'s made a lot of progress ... To watch it come along and now renting out the apartments, it's really impressive," said fifth ward Councilor Frank Anderson.
Council John Mortise of the second ward said the building looks "incredible ... this place needed to be torn down," he thought in 2014 at the project's beginning, he said.
Councilor Kimberly Rogers of the third ward noted that YES development kept the "historic preservation of the building" in mind while creating an attractive, modern space.
Built in 1894, Old City Hall south of Veterans Memorial Park on the west side of James Street, across from St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. Along with the stately church and the adjacent twin parks to their south, the buildings are considered to be key architectural landmarks in the city’s downtown.
YES Development paid the city $25,000 for the building and began an extensive project to renovate the building with a plan to remake the first floor focused on business tenants and the upstairs into living spaces.
The original deadline to complete the project was the end of 2014, however delays in the work have resulted in several extensions. The most recent extension of its rehabilitation deal with the city expired at the end of 2017, however, the Common Council reviewed the project and agreed to allow the work to be finished rather than have the city exercise a reverter clause in the original purchase agreement.