It’s a Downtown Revival! Beverly McKinley Practices What She Preaches
DOWNTOWN PADUCAH IS IN THE THROES OF A REVIVAL. BUILDINGS AND STREETS THAT ONCE SEEMED DOOMED TO ABANDONMENT ARE BEING SAVED BY THE GRACES OF GOOD PEOPLE LIKE BEVERLY MCKINLEY WITH A CHORUS OF SUPPORT FROM THE LIKES OF PADUCAH BANK!
Beverly fell in love with Western Kentucky when she decided to attend college at Murray State University. Her desire to teach brought her to Paducah in 1984 where she settled in at West Kentucky Technical College. But education was not her only passion. “I have a huge interest in historical items,” says Beverly. “I’m not really a history buff, but I love old buildings, cars, and antiques.” That love for hands-on history drew Beverly to a prominent building at the corner of Broadway and Second Streets. “The building was once a grand hotel with a grand lobby. It served the traffic that came in off the river. The Hotel Belvedere changed names and hands over the years. There were thirty-three rooms with centralized bathrooms when I first set eyes on it. By the mid-eighties, it was no longer a hotel and was in pretty bad shape. Gerry Montgomery had her eye on it for a bed and breakfast. Once I expressed an interest, she really began to encourage me. What an inspiration she was!”
In 1986, Beverly bought the now historic landmark. “Downtown was not what it is today, but I knew the community was beginning to rally to change things. The city parking lot was gravel and contained one dumpster full of rats. Outside of a few dedicated businesses, nothing was here. But community leaders and business owners were starting to envision what might be.”
Beverly’s vision pushed her forward, and within six months, the first two floors were complete. “I actually had a car museum on the first floor. That was my original dream. The second floor had to be opened up before it could become a B&B. The rooms were so small. Each one had just enough space to sleep along with three hooks on the wall. . . one for a hat, one for a coat, and one for a bag. So the rooms needed to be bigger.”
Beverly transformed the second floor into four warm and inviting guest suites, each with their own unique amenities. The rooms still maintain the feel of the period when the hotel was at its grandest. “I tried to save as much as possible and not throw things out while still being economical and efficient. The Broadway Room, for example, features wall paneling made from doors salvaged from the original hotel, as well as beautiful arched windows offering a panoramic view of the Ohio River.”
In 2001, Beverly finished restoring the top three floors. “God really sent a lot of great people to me,” Beverly says with a broad smile. “Over ninety different people worked here as we finished the building. The community made this possible. We all touch each other’s lives. I learned a great work ethic from my dad, but there is no way I could do this by myself. This really shows what can be done through a community of concerned people. I am just an ordinary person, but God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”
Over the years, Beverly has touched other downtown properties including the current locations of KWHS Jewelers, Lela’s Boutique, and the Visitor’s Bureau. “I love to get into other buildings, but I always came back to the old hotel.” Beverly converted the first floor into retail space and the upper floors into fabulous living space. With the building complete, however, Beverly felt the urge to restore more.
“There was a vacant property between Paducah Harbor and Whaler’s Catch that was owned by Barbara Nell Shelton,” Beverly explained. “It had been empty for about twenty years. As we saw all the changes taking place downtown, I knew someone needed to buy it.” Beverly took a stroll into the building one day as Barbara was showing someone around. “I went over while she was giving the tour. When nothing came of the gentleman’s visit, I asked Barbara if she would sell to me. My friend and partner, Ronnie James, and I were able to secure the property.”
Beverly’s imagination began to reel with what might be. “We decided to turn the building into ten luxury condos. We pre-sold nine of them almost immediately.” The condos, now near completion, are proving to be unlike anything Paducah has ever seen. “These are really nice lofts,” adds Beverly. “Each one has indoor parking, access to a rooftop deck, private entrances, elevators, a video security system, and balconies that open up to some really great views of Paducah.”
And the wheels are still turning. “We’re going to turn the alley between Paducah Harbor and the condos into a walkway called Brick Alley. The stores on Broadway can have two entryways, and pedestrians have a beautiful place to stroll.” Beverly also has a vision for 215 Broadway. “I want to bring the first townhouse to the downtown area with a unique two-story living space. I see a great future for downtown.”
“I couldn’t have done any of this without the aid of Paducah Bank,” Beverly says. “It really is our community bank, and they have a great interest in downtown. We all want to see success in Paducah, and Paducah Bank is such a huge part of that. You can’t come into projects like this under capitalized. Too many people do that. These projects are not remodeling, they are restoration. You need care and love to see them through. That’s what drives me. And I know it drives my friends at Paducah Bank as well.”