Convention Center work begins downtown

Getting started: Fencing was set up around a lot north of the Hilton Garden Inn on April 22, 2020. This marked the first day of construction for the Terre Haute Convention Center off of north Seventh Street, and drainage and utility work was to go into gear on April 23.

Wednesday marked 229 days since its official ground breaking ceremony was staged in September 2019, but the day also marked the official start of the construction clock on a new downtown Terre Haute convention center for Garmong Construction Services.

The Terre Haute firm serves as the project’s “construction manager as constructor," meaning it will oversee the project as well as perform up to 20 percent of the construction work. CH Garmong & Son/Garmong Construction Services has a contract for $4,295,840 for general trades work.

"We have been busy behind the scenes [ordering steel and other needed materials], but it is exciting to actually make our way out onto the site and start the construction process," said Brian Kooistra, chief operating officer for Garmong Construction Services.

"It is an exciting day. We are glad that it is finally here," he said Wednesday.

The initial work includes "running utility feeds, basically from Seventh Street to the convention center and some storm drainage improvements." That storm water drainage system is basically a sophisticated dry well.

"It is an underground storm water collection system, which is typical in a downtown setting," Kooistra said. "It collects the water underground and discharges it back into the ground."

The drainage work is expected to take three months. The convention center remains on a 22-month construction build-out, but with delays in starting, the completion date is now pushed back to the first quarter of 2022, Kooistra said.

On Wednesday, fencing was set up around the storm drainage area, with pavement cuts slated for today followed by excavation work. The project then moves east as construction continues. Initial utility relocation work includes sanitary sewer, electric and natural gas, Kooistra said.

Delays getting started

An official groundbreaking was staged on Sept. 6, 2019, but the project was soon delayed. In November, the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board approved plans for a smaller "northwest" parking garage.

The CIB would also start a process of acquiring land from Terre Haute Hotel Partners LLC, which involves the Dora Hotel Co. and the Hilton Garden Inn, and Terre Haute Realty LLC, a limited liability corporation of Hulman & Company.

The issue of a northwest garage for Hilton Garden Inn soon mired the project for the rest of 2019 and much of the first few months of 2020.

Construction of a second parking garage was deemed too costly.

The design of that garage, which would also rest atop the needed underground drainage site north of the Hilton Garden Inn, would not allow the use of pre-cast walls, nearly doubling its initial cost estimate of of $4.5 million. Additionally, tax increment finance monies, generated from an increase assessed value from the convention center project, would not cover the higher costs.

Efforts then turned to purchasing a lot at 7th and Wabash for surface parking, removing the need for a second parking garage.

Earlier this month, the CIB offered $3 million to purchase the Vigo County School Corp.’s Wabash Avenue property, which currently houses the school’s administrative headquarters. The purchase is expected to be finalized in 60 to 75 days.

The total cost of the convention center increased to more than $34.5 million, up from $32.5 million, which included expenses for land. Construction costs increased to $25,413,893 from $24,633,566.

The convention funding breakdown includes $10 million from Vigo County; $10 million from the city of Terre Haute; $5 million from the Terre Haute Convention & Visitors Bureau; and $4 million from the Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission. That commission in March increased its pledge from $3 million. The remainder of the more than $34.5 million convention center is funded from a county food and beverage tax.

The project includes a 41,834-square-foot convention center and a 458-space convention center parking garage.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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