News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

February 26, 2014

EDITORIAL: More welcome news for downtown

Deming Center project provides another boost

TERRE HAUTE — An average game of dominoes lasts about a half-hour.

The process of reviving a city’s downtown district — to the point that people desire to live there — requires far more time. Years. Maybe decades. Terre Haute has endured that frustrating, unpredictable scenario, but finally, gradually the necessary dominoes are tumbling. Their momentum is real, and more goals could fall into place as a result.

An Indianapolis firm specializing in refurbishing historic structures plans to make over Deming Center, creating upper-floor apartments for primarily Indiana State University students and first-floor commercial shops and businesses. The project by Core Redevelopment begins a new chapter in the life of the century-old building, currently used as a subsidized housing unit for more than 100 low-income elderly and handicapped folks.

The aged state of Deming Center prompted a decision last year by the Terre Haute Housing Authority to move the residents to a new Warren Village apartment unit at 1300 N. 25th St. by the end of 2014. The plan left the future uncertain for Deming, which spent the first 50 years of its existence as a ritzy hotel. The doubts faded, though, when Core Redevelopment expressed its interest. On Monday night, the Housing Authority board of directors agreed to sell Deming Center to Core for $800,000. The company intends to begin a $5.3-million renovation as soon as the current residents move to Warren Village, and expects new tenants to start moving in by autumn of 2015.

Once Deming reaches full occupancy again, downtown Terre Haute could have 600 residents. The current population of the district — which spans from Third Street east to the 10th Street railroad tracks, and from Poplar Street north to Cherry Street — stands at about 300 people, according to calculations by Todd Nation, city councilman and downtown businessman.

A separate $18.7-million public-private project, already under way, will construct four stories of housing for ISU students and first-floor commercial spaces on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. Thompson Thrift Development expects its completion by July 2015. Private owners of other downtown buildings are remodeling upper-floor apartments as well, Nation said.

The cumulative effect of new residents downtown is “all welcome news,” Nation said.

At some point, the constant presence of those people, coupled with others staying in the Center City apartments and the two downtown hotels — the Hilton Garden Inn and Candlewood Suites — may lead to long-awaited services in the district, such as evening hours for most restaurants, additional shops, groceries, and 24-hour diners and coffee houses. Supply meets demand, as the economic adage goes. “The more people we get living down here, the closer we get to those amenities we’d like to have,” Nation said.

No single element has pushed downtown Terre Haute toward that tipping point. Controversy engulfed several initiatives, from Center City to the demolition of the deteriorated Terre Haute House. Those debates spawned a healthy byproduct — the public’s needs, wants, concerns and ideas got aired. The puzzle continues to evolve. It is inspiring to know Deming Center, thanks to its uninterrupted usage, will fill a significant spot in that picture. In its heyday, the hotel included several shops, eateries and fine dining spots. Its revival brings the downtown district closer to reacquiring those missing pieces.

 

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