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Chamber officials eager to move forward with building renovation

Brookhaven’s historic Chamber of Commerce building has beenthrough some changes in past years, and chamber officials say theones in the works now will put the building in line to be one ofthe best buildings in the downtown area.

Chamber Executive Vice President Cliff Brumfield said thechamber received a special appropriation of around $297,000 throughHousing and Urban Development to fund the renovation. The moneywill also fund improvements to the historic fire house located atthe back of the chamber building, which was once the BrookhavenCity Hall.

Brumfield said the process has been a long time in the making,as the grant came through in 2004.

“In order to comply with the grant and keep the renovation inline with historical integrity, it’s been a lengthy process ofapprovals and research,” he said.

The plans should be ready to advertise for bids by some time inMarch, Brumfield said.

Among renovation plans are an elevator to help access the secondfloor, as well as a rear fire escape, which the building iscurrently lacking. The board room will be relocated and severaloffices will be added. The chamber will still include an office forthe Third Congressional District’s Brookhaven field offices aswell.

The remodeling of the second floor is only partially funded,Brumfield said, and the chamber is currently seeking funds tocomplete that part of the project.

“It won’t cover complete second floor renovations, but it willget it ready to be returned to its original condition,” he said.”It will not need as extensive renovations as the first floor.”

He said the Department of Archives and History has beeninstrumental in seeing that the building renovations are in linewith standards for historic landmarks.

The main priority of the project is to upgrade the chamberbuilding, Brumfield said, though the old firehouse will alsoreceive work. He said the interior of the firehouse will need to begutted, as what’s inside the building now is deteriorated to beingsubstandard

“The chamber occupies both buildings,” Brumfield said. “Thegrant is focused more on the chamber building, which is easy tounderstand because it’s of much more historical importance, thoughthey’re both important to the city’s history.”

Brumfield said the final plans and and specs should be finishedby March, and that hopefully the chamber would be in full-blownrenovations by summer.

“We’d like to have it completed by the Ole Brook Festival,though this is taking longer than we anticipated due to our havingto adhere to the respective standards,” said Brumfield. “Part ofthe money from HUD is determined by our meeting that criteria.”

But it looks like the ball is rolling, and city and countyofficials are excited, Brumfield said.

“We want to make the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce one of the best buildings in all of downtown Brookhaven,”he said.