By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. - When the city closes soon on the purchase of its new city hall - now the United Community Bank complex - it will be a nod to the future. And because of the three-part deal that has the bank relocated to the historic Jesse Hunt House, it will be a nod to the past, as well.
The riverfront Hunt House, which is undergoing renovations, was Indiana's first three-story brick building. The Federal-style structure, for many years a hotel, dates to about 1818.
City Council last week unanimously approved the purchase of the UCB complex, from 212 to 230 Walnut Street, for $2,835,000.
"The most important thing is," City Manager Tom Steidel said Monday, "and I'm not sure who said this, but he asked, `If you're trying a renaissance in your city, are you a client?'"
The three-way deal between the city, the bank and the Historic Landmarks of Indiana Inc. puts city offices in a high-visibility building in the heart of High and Walnut streets, where the city envisions a major downtown development.
The deal calls for the bank to stay put for about a year, leasing the property from the city while the new bank is completed.
It also allows the city to sell or lease its current City Hall building at Main Street and U.S. 50.
That location is prime real estate for commercial use, Steidel said.
The secondary goal is to centralize city offices, and the bank building on Walnut is large enough to accommodate the municipality's many offices.
City Hall, the police and fire departments and other offices are spread throughout Lawrenceburg.
A central computer system would connect them all under one roof.
The agreement allows the bank the option to buy the Hunt House from the Landmarks organization, which bought the building from the city in 1999.
The city recently received $31 million, its annual take from the Argosy Casino that opened in 1996. Much of that money goes into the municipal development fund.
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