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Keeping History Intact While Allowing Growth a Challenge for Historic Commission

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

Two Oxford businesses are attempting to keep the historic feel of the old downtown Square buildings while breathing new life into them.

On Monday, the Courthouse Square Historic Preservation Commission reviewed requests for Certificate of Appropriateness from local restauranteur John Currence and Tim Smith who are opening a new po’boy restaurant at 208 South Lamar Blvd. next to Square Books.

The location has been home to a slew of restaurants over the years including Grundy’s, Smitty’s, 208 and more recently, Stella Restaurant and Bar.

Constructed in 1880, the building has been renovated several times since with a major overhaul in 1945.

The owners had asked to demolish the building and rebuild a new one, but that request was denied by the commission in November. The commission did allow demolition of the south wall.

On Monday, architect Corey Alger presented requests to use the old bricks from the interior on the facade of the new building, add paired fixed doors to the front and to build a residential unit by creating a third-floor addition. The commission tabled the request for the third-floor addition, asking to see more detailed designs. Some of the commissioners expressed concerns about the visual impact of the third-floor unit; however, the other two requests were approved.

Construction plans provided by the city of Oxford.

Also on Monday, John Desler, owner of The Library Sports Bar and Grill, submitted a request for partial demolition of a building located at 1010 Jackson Avenue, which was the former location of S&J Art Gallery & Collectibles for many years. S&J is moving to Van Buren Avenue.

Desler wants to demolish part of the building, keeping the facade and a portion of the building for bathrooms and a lobby, and create an interior exposed patio that will connect with the existing property of The Library.

Alger, who is also the architect for this project, asked permission to install a new wall between the existing building and the building directly to the east, next to Funky’s. The commission approved the COA request.

One of the commissioners, Stewart Povall, expressed concerns about what appears to be a growing trend of demolishing portions of buildings on the Square and keeping just the facade.

“I don’t want to set a precedent that all we care about is the front of our buildings,” he said.

However, Commissioner Dorothy Laurenzo said each case before the commission is decided on its own merit.

“We don’t approve or deny on precedents,” she said.

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