News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

January 27, 2014

Watching it fall

Demolition of historic downtown buildings begins

TERRE HAUTE — Barbershop owner John Stadler had mixed feelings Monday as he watched a major demolition project begin across the street from his downtown Terre Haute business.

The demolition of buildings on the north side of Wabash Avenue, between Fifth and Sixth streets, will pave the way for an $18.7 million public-private partnership that will provide housing for Indiana State University students and retail space.

“I’ve got mixed feelings about it,” said Stadler, as he looked out the window of his business and watched an excavator take a piece of the five-story Albrecht building at 518 Wabash. “I think it’s going to be good, once they get the new buildings up. But I hate to see the front of the buildings come down.”

Initially, the project had called for the historic building façades to be preserved, but ISU had to eliminate that aspect to cut costs. Thompson Thrift Development will build and own the facility and lease the upper four floors to ISU; the first floor will have retail space.

Once the ISU housing is complete, Stadler hopes his business will benefit with more customers.

He is concerned about the temporary loss of parking across the street on the north side of Wabash. Parking also used to be available on a city-owned lot at Fifth and Wabash, which now belongs to Thompson Thrift. “I’m getting a lot of complaints from customers,” said Stadler,  whose barbershop is located at 509 Wabash Ave.

He’s glad to hear about downtown revitalization, but hopes there will be adequate parking.

McGuire Excavating began demolition Monday on a bone-chilling day, with a wind chill well below zero.

Workers used an excavator to carefully begin demolishing the five-story Albrecht building. The demolition contractor has placed concrete barriers and fencing along the north side of Wabash.

Judi Evelo, broker/owner of Century 21 Advantage at 523 Wabash Ave., took pictures as the excavator took its “first bite” into the building.

“I think it’s fabulous,” she said. “I couldn’t wait for this to happen.” She invested in the building that houses her downtown business about three years ago, and one of her visions “was that something would happen across the street.”

She’s a strong advocate of downtown revitalization. “It’s going to be great,” she said.

Also watching demolition was Julia Machango, a sales woman at Corey’s Fine Footwear. “I really wish we could have saved the [facades] on them,” she said. “I think it’s sad. I believe in restoration.”

But she’s excited about what the new facility will mean for downtown. “It’s exciting to be part of history,” she said. She’s spent many years working downtown, first at Meis and later at Corey’s. She’s also worked for the court system.

“I’m excited to see what’s going to go in on the ground floor,” Machango said, referring to the retail shops. “I look forward to competition in footwear.”

She’s a little concerned about demolition debris hitting something, “but they’ve been very careful. It’s been very meticulous,” she said.

The project does limit parking, which inconveniences customers, she said.

Becky Linville, one of the owners of Hayhurst and Hayhurst at 519 Wabash Ave., also took note of activities across the street. “They were very pretty buildings, gorgeous buildings. I hate to see the old go away,” she said. “But under the circumstances, in their current condition, we’d rather see improvement than have to look at what we see now.”

She’s not concerned about any safety issues. “I feel the people they have hired to do it have done many projects, and they know what they are doing,” she said.

Linville also noted the loss of parking, both across the street and on the lot formerly owned by the city as well as through other changes downtown.

Paul Thrift, president of Thompson Thrift Development, said demolition will take between 60 and 90 days. The goal is for construction to begin in April, with projection completion set for July 2015.

The design process is moving forward and he hopes to have renderings to share sometime next month.

Students who live in the downtown housing “will park on campus,” Thrift said.

ISU will have the option of purchasing the housing portion of the structure at any point during the lease.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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