Blue Gables receives preservation honor

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Restoration project earns Ida Lee Willis preservation award

By Tammy Shaw

The transformation of an old motel and apartment building landed a local group on the state’s radar, resulting in receiving the state highest preservation honor at a recent awards ceremony.


Shelbyville Preservation Group won the Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation Preservation Project award May 29 in Frankfort during National Preservation Month.

According to a foundation release, The Shoppes at Blue Gables is an “outstanding example of building or site rehabilitation, restoration and adaptive reuse….”

SPG is a volunteer group that came together to renovate Blue Gables.

“It was a nice surprise to us,” SPG Treasurer Kerry Magan said. “We were nominated by the City of Louisville Historic Landmarks and Preservation Districts Commission through the state historic preservation office to compete statewide for the award.”

Local community effort

The former motel turned into apartments had issues – law and code enforcement and drugs.

The foundation celebrated the resulting transformation from a former roach motel into commercial retail space. Steve Collins presented the award on behalf of Kentucky Historic Council.

Ida Lee Willis Foundation is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and in May celebrated National Historic Preservation Month.

“The awards recognize contributions to preserving our collective heritage at the local level and throughout the commonwealth via personal commitment, investment, advocacy, volunteerism, building partnerships, public involvement, lifelong dedication or significant achievement,” a press release from the foundation stated.

The foundation hosts the event in partnership with the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office (KHC).

Rough past

Blue Gables Motel was an eyesore to the city before SPG, a non-profit corporation, rehabilitated the building to turn into an artisan alcove at the corner of Main Street and Eighth.

“Our vision was artisan shops, to make it a destination,” Burry said.

Frequent law enforcement calls, vermin and code enforcement problems plagued the structure until SPG partnered with the City of Shelbyville and KIPDA, Kentucky Regional Planning and Development Agency, to buy the building through a Community Block Grant, with the city as middleman.

“There is not enough paper to write on for the code violations, rough interiors and bad plumbing in those substandard apartments,” Magan said.

According to Magan, current SPG President and Shelbyville architect Bob Burry conceived the project several years ago and gathered a board and negotiated a way through the grants program that the City of Shelbyville coordinated. ”He was the moving force,” he said. “If it wasn’t for his foresight, we wouldn’t have been involved.”

“I was at a seminar for the Heritage Council and they talked about Community Block Grants,” Burry said. Then business owner Bobby Andriot got involved. “We got together a hand-picked board,” he said. ”No one person could do it.

“It took the community coming together to turn such a place of shades and shadows, it needed to happen.”

There were drugs and prostitution” at the apartments.

In 2014 the building sale closed and SPG took over the building for rehabilitation.

The Sentinel-News reported in June 2014 that all humans had left the old Blue Gables Motel, but other residents, roaches, bedbugs and other scurrying life crawled on its floors and walls and nibbled on spare food.

But in October 2016, Shelby County Historical Society and Shelby Preservation celebrated a grand opening of Blue Gable Shoppes at Blue Gables.

“It’s been received very well by the community, and many regard it as a success,” Burry said. “Many volunteer hours and community support are behind this, and it represents the effort in the community to help Shelbyville.

“It speaks highly of the community for coming together.”