News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 16, 2011

New three-story office building planned for downtown Terre Haute

WTHI building to be razed for parking lot

TERRE HAUTE — Big changes are on the horizon for the east side of Terre Haute’s downtown.

Thompson Thrift, a Terre Haute-based contractor, announced Tuesday that it plans to build a new three-story office building at 91⁄2 Street and Wabash Avenue. The plans also call for demolishing the current WTHI radio and TV building at 918 Ohio St., a structure that has stood since 1890.

If all goes according to plan, the new, 33,000-square-foot building will face Wabash Avenue and will serve as a new home for Old National Insurance and radio stations WTHI-FM 99.9 and WWVR-FM 105.5 “The River.”

Construction of the new building is scheduled to begin in July and be completed by May 2012, officials announced Tuesday.

The building marks “another transformational project” for downtown Terre Haute, said Paul Thrift at a public announcement of the building plans Tuesday afternoon.

Part of the funding for the $5.7 million project is expected to come through a tax increment finance arrangement through the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment. However, the Redevelopment Commission, which meets today at 4 p.m. in City Hall, has not yet approved the funding package, said Cliff Lambert, executive director of the Department of Redevelopment.

If approved by the Redevelopment Commission, the city will be spending $125,000 for new curbs and sidewalks around the new building, Lambert said. The city will also provide $250,000 toward immediate debt relief for the new building and — over the next 10 or 12 years — another $500,000 in debt service, which will come from new property taxes generated by the building, he said.

“Oftentimes, we public-sector folks have to act as a catalyst” for development, Lambert said. “This is not a tremendous amount of money we’re incentivizing them with.”

The Redevelopment funding is necessary to make the new project competitive with office properties outside of downtown, Thrift said.

If all goes according to plan, the current WTHI radio and TV building at 918 Ohio St. will be demolished to provide parking for the new building, Thrift said. The WTHI building is currently owned by Emmis Indiana Broadcasting, according to county records. Emmis owns WTHI-FM and WWVR-FM, but not WTHI-TV, which is owned by LIN Media. LIN Media is currently making plans to move to a separate location, said officials at the announcement.

The WTHI-TV and radio building, which county records say was constructed in 1890, has housed WTHI broadcast operations since the 1950s. Prior to that, the building was home to the Simplicity Pattern Company, according to Terre Haute City Directories.

Old National Insurance, which is currently housed at 999 Ohio St., is expected to occupy the second floor of the new building, while the two radio stations will occupy about half of the third floor. The entire first floor, except the lobby area, and about half of the third floor are available for lease, Thrift said.

Meanwhile, the 43 associates employed at Old National Insurance are looking forward to their new location, said Steve Danielson, region president of ONI.

“We’re looking forward to being a part of the continued growth and revitalization of the center of the city,” Danielson said at the announcement. “We’ve been looking for quite some time for a place that will help us expand and to grow and also to serve our clients better. We think this is a perfect fit.”

The former Old National Insurance location at 999 Ohio St. is owned by Suba Holdings Inc., according to county records. No one from that business could be reached Tuesday afternoon.

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

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