Work begins on latest downtown improvement project

Although the scope, type and appearance of the improvements are still undetermined, work to redevelop a dated eight-story downtown office building has begun.

“We’re continuing to finalize credits, grants and incentives for the project so we don’t know (some of the details). But we’ve begun demolition and will replace the mechanical systems so we can continue once things crystallize,” said Tony Brita, spokesman for the ownership group that includes Ash Brokerage CEO Tim Ash, whose new headquarters is across the street. The News-Sentinel first reported the planned redevelopment of the Fifth Third Metro Center in September, when the Ash-led group bought the building from local developer Bill Bean. Fifth Third Bank’s lobby is on the first floor, and the rest of the floor will be reserved for retail use no matter what happens to the rest of the building.

The building has contained mostly offices in the past, but the degree to which residential units are added – if any – will be influenced by funding.

“Some (incentives) allow residential; others exclude it,” Brita said. Funding will also determine improvements to the exterior facade. “The building will be mixed-use, but right now we have plans A, B and C,” he added.

Whatever ultimately happens, Bean told The News-Sentinel last year, it should be good for downtown.

“One reason I sold was (that Ash) has a vision to raise the building to a completely new level,” he said.