News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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December 23, 2013

Board approves downtown demolition

Buildings from late 1800’s will be razed to make way for ISU housing project

TERRE HAUTE — The days are numbered for three of Terre Haute’s oldest downtown buildings.

Thanks to a change of plan imposed by state lawmakers, the historic façades of several buildings between Fifth and Sixth streets on the north side of Wabash Avenue will not be preserved when Indiana State University builds new housing on that location.

ISU had agreed to preserve the historic façades as part of a new, multi-story building for student housing.

“I think we all regret that we couldn’t retain those” façades, said Diann McKee, vice president for business affairs, finance and university treasurer at ISU. Dropping the façades was a necessary concession to obtain approval from the state for the project, she said.

The Indiana budget committee, made up of state lawmakers, gave approval for the project Friday. Eliminating the façades saves about $2 million from the cost of the project, state officials said.

On Monday, the Terre Haute Board of Public Works and Safety approved a request from McGuire Excavating & Trucking to close the sidewalk and parking lane between Fifth and Sixth streets on Wabash and from Wabash to the alley on Sixth Street to allow for the demolition. The approval provides a time frame from Jan. 8 to April 30.

Todd Nation, a member of the City Council and advocate for historic preservation downtown, said he hopes a new building at that location will become a new downtown landmark.

“It’s sad that it didn’t work out” to preserve the historic façades, Nation said Monday. There are no design guidelines for downtown construction, so the new structure “could be anything,” he noted. However, he hopes it will a positive addition to the area.

The design could be traditional or modern, Nation said. “It can still be something that the community can be proud of.”

McKee, speaking Monday, said it is too soon to know what the new design will be. Thompson Thrift, a developer, is handling the design. “We want to see something that will fit in with the architecture and fabric of downtown,” McKee said.

The buildings to be demolished include the Albrecht building at 518 Wabash and the neighboring Ford and Swope-Nehf buildings, both built in the late 1800s. They have been vacant for several years.

Fifty years ago, according to a 1963 Terre Haute City Directory, those buildings once contained several men’s and women’s clothing stores, Silverstein Bros. furniture, a Maytag dealer, several law offices and much more.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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