LAFAYETTE, Ga. — Michael Lovelady opened One-Eleven restaurant on LaFayette’s square not because he longed to be a restaurateur.
Lovelady, who had no restaurant experience, opened the upscale eatery only because he couldn’t stand the idea of turning the historic building he bought at 111 E. LaFayette Square into offices for his business, Correctional Electronics Supply. Stripping away old drywall, a dropped ceiling and the like revealed a beautiful historic building underneath.
“Once we found the historic elements in here, we didn’t have the heart to make it into offices,” Lovelady said.
He dug up items from the building’s days as Kirby Herndon Hardware and incorporated them as restaurant decor, including ladders that roll on rails and an old elevator once used to haul Model Ts upstairs.
On Thursday morning, Lovelady made his case for establishing a historic district in downtown LaFayette to a dozen people who met at 8 a.m. in the Bank of LaFayette’s community room.
The historic district idea had been broached by the City Council in September but put on hold after business owners protested.
“They didn’t want a heavy-handed government telling them what to do,” Lovelady said. “There was a lot of confusion.”
The meeting Thursday was meant to dispel some of that misunderstanding — though no one there expressed opposition to the district.
That may be because the LaFayette Historic Preservation Commission has recommended that the council take an all-carrot, no-stick approach. Establish the historic district, commissioners said, but make the design guidelines optional.
The “carrot” for businesses that follow the guidelines is that they could be eligible for tax credits and grants to help fund construction.
“They only have to comply with it if they want to take advantage of those,” said Catherine Edgemon, the city’s Main Street and Economic Development director.
Longtime LaFayette contractor Ron Underwood said, “The guidelines are recommendations; they’re not gospel.”
City Councilman Chris Davis, who was at the meeting, predicted the council would approve the historic downtown district when it’s on the agenda, probably in May.
“I see the benefit of it,” said Davis, adding that he thinks the downtown historic district would be good for the city’s image.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.