Evansville-based Architectural Renovators Inc. will begin restoring a long-neglected, historic building pulled from the brink of demolition. Plans for the Owen Block building, purchased by Indiana Landmarks after a fundraising campaign, include improvements to more than a dozen apartments. Architectural Renovators plans to remove the blue paint currently covering the exterior.

March 12, 2015

News Release

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Indiana Landmarks announced today that it has purchased the historic Owen Block in Evansville, the subject of a fundraising and social media campaign to prevent its demolition. The nonprofit organization bought the 1882 rowhouse from the Neuhoff family for $14,000, the amount of the county and state tax liens.

“This great building was so dilapidated that we started not at zero but at negative $440,000. That’s the gap we needed to fill to get anyone interested in tackling the restoration,” said Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks. “We turned right around and conveyed the Owen Block to Michael Martin of Architectural Renovators, Inc.” Davis added.

Because of the deal, it is expected that the Evansville Building Commission will rescind the demolition order for the Owen Block at its meeting on Thursday, March 12.

Indiana Landmarks was challenged to find a solution after the engineer hired to assess the building declared it too far gone to rescue. “Saving the Owen Block would not have been possible without generous contributions from many donors in Evansville and throughout the state, and the positive enthusiasm generated for saving the building by Jesika Ellis and the Blockheads,” Davis noted.

The money Indiana Landmarks raised to fill the gap – $440,000 – will be disbursed to Martin in four installments to help cover the cost of stabilization and a portion of the exterior restoration. The city of Evansville contributed $50,000 – less than it would have spent to demolish the building. A preservation covenant held by Indiana Landmarks will remain attached to the property in perpetuity. The covenant constitutes a partial ownership interest and gives the preservation organization the right to monitor and approve exterior changes.

Architectural Renovators will being working soon to stabilize the building as outlined in a six-month agreement with Indiana Landmarks that covers the primary exterior restoration. Martin said he’ll tackle the roof and the immediate structural repairs first, and then work on the exterior.

Inside, his floorplans show 15 one-bedroom apartments of around 700-800 square feet. “The building had 16 units in the 1950s, but we're turning one space into a fitness area and mechanical room,” Martin explained. “The rent will likely run $800-900 per month in units with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, finishes that suit a building that in its heyday was something to see,” he adds.

“It’s an easier and quicker build in a way because there's very little left inside,” he noted. “I call it new wine in an old bottle. The fact that the interior had been gutted allows us to create open plan units, which is how people want to live today.”

Outside, Martin plans to recapture the red brick exterior, removing the blue paint. Immediate stabilization will be his first priority, replacing damaged components with new timber framing for the roof and inside, where structural elements were removed by the previous owners. He estimates that the Owen Block restoration will be a $1 million-plus project.

Architectural Renovators is already working with Indiana Landmarks as the contractor on the restoration of the Greyhound Station in downtown Evansville. As a developer, the company is responsible for the restorations of the Audubon and Euclid apartment houses, and the Baynham Shoe Store building on Main Street, which the firm converted to commercial and residential condominiums.

Indiana Landmarks, a 55-year-old nonprofit, maintains a headquarters in Indianapolis and eight regional and field offices, including one in Evansville. “We mobilized to save the Owen Block for several reasons,” Davis notes. “First of all, the community expressed how much it values the building, from the city support to the frequent coverage and editorial cartoons in the newspaper to the fabulous 'Blockheads,' the Facebook group formed by Jesika Ellis that generated local enthusiasm.”

The rarity of the Second Empire-style rowhouse was also a consideration for Indiana Landmarks. The Owen Block's location was another factor. “It holds the edge of the wonderful Riverside historic district. Loss of the building would have left a gaping hole in the district,” Davis adds.

“We hope the Open Block save, and our restoration of the Greyhound Station and rescue of the Peters-Margedant House, will lead to a stronger relationship between Indiana Landmarks and the Evansville community. Indiana Landmarks always welcomes more members and more support for what we do,” Davis noted.

Indiana Landmarks revitalizes communities, reconnects us to our heritage, and saves meaningful places. With eight offices located throughout the state, Indiana Landmarks helps people rescue endangered landmarks and restore neighborhoods and downtowns. People who join Indiana Landmarks receive its bimonthly magazine, Indiana Preservationist. For more information on the not-for-profit organization, call 317-639-4534, 800-450-4534, or visit www.indianalandmarks.org

Source: Indiana Landmarks

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