By Robert Noles
Opelika businessman and native Richard Patton was the guest speaker at the Opelika Historic Preservation Society’s annual membership drive held last Thursday at the Brownfield House.
The theme of Patton’s talk was “Bring New Life to Opelika’s Historic Past,” an update to the public on developments/projects that he is leading in Opelika.
One is the renovation project on First Avenue between 7th and 8th streets. Patton started out showing some Sanborn maps from 1885 – 1949. These maps showed what businesses were in many of these locations in historic cotton warehouse district and what they looked like at that time. With the help of the architect David Hill of the Auburn-based architecture firm Hillworks, Patton said he is trying to restore this area to what many of the outside of the building looked and preserve the inside like the looked during Opelika’s early days. Starting to purchase property dating back to 2006, his vision is to make this area walkable bike friendly, with a green space leaning toward an artistic rim which could be used for food or art work. With the help of the City of Opelika, this area of the road on First Avenue maybe closed between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening.
Working on this project is taken longer than Patton said he would like since he is trying to find the right renters to fill the spaces. Not all prospects qualify, for the space since he is looking for people desiring to rent long-term.
One of the new renters will be Resting Pulse Brewing Company, which will be housed in the former home of the Opelika-Auburn News. The brewery is expected to open in February 2019.
Patton is also undertaking the construction of the “Southside Project,” a series of housing developments at Avenue D and 8th Street. Keeping with the architecture of the time of when the other houses were built, the development will consist of seven homes and 21 condos with green space included. These will be for permanent residents and not for rent. Owners of these would be someone that enjoyed the downtown atmosphere.
The OHPS also used this event as a membership kickoff event. Those interested in joining or learning more about the organization can visit their Facebook page or go to the website https://www.opelikahistoricpreservationsociety.com.