By Brandi Makuski
The former site of Jim Laabs Music Super Store is one step closer to a major overhaul.
The property located at 1055 Main Street is in line for a historic renovation. Andrew Green of DB Green LLC, along with Stevens Point-based contractor Jackson Case, are planning to redesign the building to its 1908-era glory days.
“The facade is extremely important to this whole project because it’s going to define Main Street,” Green said during an on site inspection of the property with city leaders and members of the Historic Preservation/Design Review Commission. “There’s no return on investment for doing this; most people would have just bought [the building] as is and fill it with businesses or people. But I’m very passionate about doing this; I’m passionate about downtown and about history.”
Green said he’s been working directly with preservation architects from the Wisconsin Historical Society on “every facet of the building…not only outside, but inside as well” to ensure historical elements are genuine to the early 1900’s in design and style. The building was constructed in 1905.
But the renovations aren’t cheap. Green has applied for a $119,000 grant from the city’s facade improvement grant fund to complete the exterior improvements which, when complete, he said will become “the jewel of downtown”. Green said the grant would cover about half of the expected construction costs.
City leaders weren’t able to approve the hefty grant request because it exceeds the city’s guidelines for the grant program. The maximum allowable grant per building is $30,000.
But given the size of the building, officials from the community development department agreed to consider the two-story, 7,000-square-foot space as three separate spaces, making it possible to offer $30,000 for each.
The Commission gave approval for the $90,000 grant, leaving about $27,000 left in the city’s facade grant fund. The city’s Finance Committee needs to approve the grant this week, followed by Common Council
“It’s a very large building, it’s been vacant for a very long time,” said Michael Ostrowski, director of community development. “We had warranted it deserved additional funds above and beyond the maximum allowed [amount]. It hits pretty much every goal we had in mind for the facade grant program for office, as well as residential.”
One requirement of the grant approval process is for Green to secure a minimum of two competing bids for the facade work, something contractor Jackson Case argued against.
“Given the scope of the project, just the sheer specificity of the work involved, you’d be limiting this investor’s ability to complete the project,” Case said, referring to Green. Case was the only contractor to bid on the project prior to the Sept. 2 meeting.
Case argued his point with Commissioners at length, while Green remained silent. Kyle Kearns, the city’s associate planner, ultimately told Case the guidelines were already in place and any changes to that would require approval by the City Council.
Kearns also noted there were other applicants in the downtown historic district who expressed interest in applying for a grant the fund for improvements but declined to say who they were.
The plan calls for office and retail space on the first floor, with three luxury apartments on the second floor. Additional building improvements include upgrades to the north facade with new masonry work, refurbishing old windows and installation of four customized reproduction sandstone columns, bringing the building closer to its original design. The rear of the building will also see masonry and window repairs, as well as a dedicated entry for residential tenants. City leaders approved the blueprints for the apartment space in August.
The city’s Finance Committee will consider moving on the grant approval during its Sept. 14 meeting in Lincoln Center, 1519 Water Street, at 6 PM. The public is encouraged to attend.