KipCor to restore property by Feb. 1, bring Trader Joe’s to downtown
The Firestone building in downtown isn’t one of Kokomo’s more sightly destinations. It’s blue metal awning was relieved of its signage years ago. And it’s first floor tenants have left as well. It’s empty, unattractive, and out of place in a downtown experiencing its renaissance.
In just a few months, that will change. The City of Kokomo closed a deal last week to transfer the property to KipCor, a development group headed by Jeff Broughton. The company has big plans for the space.
“The reason why this building attracted me is I know the goal is to bring business downtown in Kokomo,” said Broughton. “I have a relationship with Trader Joe’s. My goal is to bring them to the first level of the building. The mayor has had the opportunity to speak with them, and they are going through their due diligence on Kokomo right now.”
Broughton said that once the company decides to come to Kokomo, regardless if it chooses the Firestone building or another location, he intends to either build or upfit the chosen site to Trader Joe’s specifications. That said, should the company choose a site outside of downtown, Broughton has a back-up plan.
“We actually first looked at the property for a children’s museum,” said Broughton. “That would be something to bring people to this market. The second level will be office space.
“The upstairs is pretty exciting. On the corner, there will be a lobby with stairs to the second level. A hall will follow the perimeter of the second level. We’ll install lighting similar to what was originally around the building, and the storefronts will be inset six feet. We’ll duplicate the original facade and signs.”
Restoring the building to its appearance in the 1920s is KipCor’s intent. Broughton has reviewed historical photos of the property as a guide. However, the tire store of long ago will be evidenced only by the reproduction sign which will promote the new businesses.
KipCor envisions adding a sidewalk cafe and/or a sandwich shop on the ground floor. Already Broughton has two tenants committed to second-floor office space. The development is going to happen quickly.
“We’re planning on having everyone moved in Feb. 1, 2014,” said Broughton. “We’re going to beat feet to get there. We’re going to get busy. If we get the exterior done and the upstairs to white wall, we can have people move in. We do try to move quickly.
“We don’t typically move this quickly. If we were looking for a petri dish that would give us the right conditions for what we do, Kokomo is it. I work all over the country -- about 32 states in total -- and what is most important to us is that unemployment is low and median income is good. On top of that, were excited that the city has no debt and is looking to grow. Plus, there are 10,000 people commuting into Kokomo every day. I feel like a kid in a candy store.”
The City of Kokomo owned the building after receiving it from STAR Bank for a nominal $10 fee in 2009. In turn, KipCor will be asked to provide a similar nominal fee to obtain the deed.
“The building was donated to the Kokomo Redevelopment Commission,” said City Attorney Lawrence McCormack. “The commission met and approved a transfer of the building to the Community Development Corp. It is working to put together a deed to transfer to KipCor with restrictions.
“We want to make sure the redevelopment is done right and that everything works.”
Broughton said that KipCor is comfortable with any restrictions the city deems necessary.
“What I have asked is if you can give me this building, even with deed restrictions to ensure I do what I say I will do, I will put up the money for the renovations,” said Broughton. “And if the city needs a portion of the space, I’m fine with that.”
Kokomo Director of Operations Randy McKay explained that KipCor already has brought tenants to tour not only the Firestone property, but also others the company recently purchased in downtown. He said the city is prepared to do what it can to attract the businesses to the core business district.
“They love the buildings and the layout of the city,” said McKay. “I don’t want to lose opportunities like this. It’s too soon to talk about incentives because we don’t know what types of businesses will be coming in. We want to do anything we can to not only attract those businesses but to make downtown work for them. We’ll use whatever resources are necessary to make this a reality.”