EAST CHICAGO | Reconstruction is scheduled to begin in earnest this year to transform a century-old Indiana Harbor library building into a modern community arts center.
The former Carnegie Library on Grand Boulevard at 136th Street closed in 1983. The library was built in 1913 through a donation by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie and one of two such libraries in East Chicago.
Efforts have been under way since 2005 to restore the classic brick structure, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, for arts education, dance, music and theater.
A half dozen general contractors, supported by an equal number of subcontractors and suppliers, packed the city's Redevelopment Department offices this week to review blueprints from Crown Point architect James Douglas Smith for electrical work, plumbing, heating and cooling — everything to get the center up and running.
"This is truly a Redevelopment Commission project," said Maria Becerra, city redevelopment director. "Commissioners have been pushing the center since the beginning, and now it's happening."
Some $2 million has been spent on the arts center to stabilize the exterior, roof and windows since 2007, but work stalled two years later when a funding campaign through a nonprofit association was created but was not as successful as hoped.
With nearly$500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding earmarked by commissioners for the work, Becerra said she is confident the center will be operational by this fall.
"Maybe not everything right away," she said. "But we'll have the interior work finished and get the main floor going."
As part of the city’s sweeping North Harbor redevelopment plans, the performing arts center joins reconstruction of the Main Street-Broadway corridor and renovation of adjacent Nunez and Callahan parks in a coordinated effort to bring new homes and businesses to the community.