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Lula building remodel combines history with hope for future

POSTED: July 19, 2013 11:15 p.m.

Lewis Bell Jr., right, and Rufus Patrick of Preferred Renovations prepare drywall Friday morning in the upstairs apartment room inside a downtown Lula building currently under renovation. The downstairs of the unit offers a business location for a tenant.

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The old red brick building at one corner of the historic Main Street in Lula is undergoing a rebirth more than 100 years after it was built, and after years of neglect and abuse.

City resident Mark Lusink is developing the building into a store downstairs and a two-bedroom apartment upstairs. He’s using a lot of the original wood, brick and other hardware of the past to bring to life something new.

“This used to be used a run-down building,” Lusink said. “Frankly, I got tired of seeing the bars in the windows and the place boarded up.”

Lusink isn’t a real estate developer flipping a property. He’s retired from running a boat dealership in Buford for 42 years. He hopes this project will spur additional economic development.

He has lived in Lula for eight years and has a passion for the city’s history as a member of the Lula-Belton Historical Society. The towns of Lula and Belton combined in 1956, Lusink wrote in a history of the city.

The building was built around the late 1800s, Lusink said. There were three train tracks running through town in the early 1900s. In its heyday, it flourished with grocery stores, hotels, saloons, a bank and a school.

The building was a store and the owner lived upstairs.

Lusink bought it in November and inherited a bunch of problems. Drainage problems in the alleys nearby flooded the building, creating mildew and softening the bricks. Construction worker Kim Martin said he had to brace the building with steel to keep it together. The renovation includes putting back a front porch.

Hall County Geographical Information Systems shows Lusink bought the property for $65,000. He said he’s putting in double that cost to renovate it.

The government of Lula is also contributing to restoring the downtown area. Lula City Council recently approved several capital improvement projects for the downtown area, including resolving the streetscape drainage issues, installing a new sewer pipe and putting in new landscaping.

Lusink said the city is supporting his efforts by putting in sidewalks and paving parking across the street. He plans to rent or lease out the retail space and the apartment.

Vicky Chambers, city councilwoman and florist, said she thinks Lusink’s work will bear economic fruit for the city’s core. Chamber’s shop is on the same block as the red brick building on Main Street.

“I think it will help encourage people who own property downtown to restore it and begin the process of cleaning up and bringing some life back down to downtown,” Chambers said.

The city started building the Veterans Park adjacent to Main Street in 2008 and just approved repairs to the Poole building behind it. Chambers, a past historical society president, said the park in a work in progress. The society sells bricks for $50 that can be inscribed with a veteran’s name for the park, with the money used to help fix up downtown.

Lusink said he hopes the building will be finished by Christmas when he can sit on the front porch and watch the town’s holiday parade.


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