NEW ALBANY — It still doesn't look like much. An old building, with no windows and a front wall that has to be supported by large beams. Hard to imagine anything happening to this structure other than being bulldozed.
But plenty has been going on at the old Reisz Furniture building since last October.
Renovation work on the building at 148 E. Main St. is still scheduled to be completed later this year. That is when the eyesore on Main Street becomes New Albany City Hall.
"We have put a lot of effort in to stabilize the building," Brandon Denton, co-founder of Denton Floyd Real Estate Group, the company restoring the property, said. "Now, we are about to hit the ground running."
Construction crews have been working at the Reisz building since last fall. And while it's hard to see progress, it has taken eight months to stabilize the facility and get it ready for interior renovation.
"I would say another 12 to 24 months it would have been to the point where reconstruction was not possible," Clayton Pace, director of development & construction for Denton Floyd, said of the building. "It's taken a long time to get to this point due to all the meticulous work that had to be done."
Steel beams were placed under the second floor and the interior walls were stabilized. After decades of neglect, the building was on life support when Denton Floyd crews began construction work last year.
The steal beams not only stabilized the floor, but also were needed after old beams were removed from the first floor of the building, which will be the location of the new City Council Assembly Room. Part of the plan was not to have anyone's sight restricted during meetings.
"We had to peel back several layers to see what we were dealing with," Denton said.
He added that the glass elevator tower will be noticeable from the Sherman Minton Bridge and "will make the place pop."
The main entrance and parking lot to the building will also be in the rear. While city council chambers will be on the first floor, the second floor will house planning and zoning and redevelopment. The mayor's office and city controller will be located on the third floor, as will a conference room that will look out over the river.
"It was in such poor shape; they told us it was going to fall down if we didn't do something," New Albany city attorney Shane Gibson said of the Reisz building. "This is really going to be nice."
The agreement with Denton Floyd calls for the city to pay $570,000 a year, from Economic Development Income Tax funds, for 15 years. In year 16, the city will outright own the building. The city currently pays around $200,000 to rent space at the City-County Building. The city police department will not be relocating to the new city hall.
Denton Floyd's proposal included $5.6 million to renovate the 23,000 square-foot building, which dates back to the 1840s.
It didn't happen without plenty of debate. The city council finally approved the agreement by a 5-4 vote last year after weeks of discussion.
Denton Floyd also renovated the M. Fine Building in New Albany recently and turned it into The Mansion on Main. While replacing the pane glass was tedious and time consuming, the M. Fine Building was in much better condition than the Reisz building. But "adaptive reuse" is the company's "passion," Denton said.
"This building was in much worse shape and more complicated," he said. "This property is in the center of the city and will be a focal point to the downtown. Our passion is to put new life into an old building. This was a little more complicated but definitely has a cool factor."
Pace said the new windows are on order and should be installed in the next six to eight weeks. He also said now that the building has been stabilized, crews can begin the "standard construction" work.
Work will be ongoing in the interior and exterior simultaneously. Pace expects the exterior to be finished by October. He has been working with Indiana Landmarks to ensure certain aspects, like replacement windows, fall within the historic district guidelines.
It's a big job with a lot of moving parts, but it's one Pace said his crew members are used to tackling.
"We did a renovation to a building in Madison like this, but it had trees growing up in the walls," he said. "We had to take bricks out, remove the trees, and put it back together like new. It can be done, but it does take time."