VALPARAISO | It didn't take long for the city to find an applicant for a share of the additional $200,000 placed in the downtown facade grant program in August.
The funds, left over from a former federal housing rehab program from the 1990s, had been sitting unused for more than 15 years until the council action. On Tuesday, the city's Plan Commission recommended $50,000 be used to help with the renovation of the vacant Buck Stop building.
Lawyer Andrew Lucas said he and his father bought the building at 109 Lincolnway, which previously was occupied for many years by Sievers Pharmacy, two weeks ago. He hopes to complete the exterior renovation and start on the interior work before the end of the year.
"The current facade is one of the ugliest on Lincolnway," Lucas told the commission. "Buildings like this are one of the prime reasons for the facade grant program. I'm excited about the opportunity to bring back one of the last big buildings downtown."
He plans to install a new main entrance in the center of the building for access to the 8,000 square feet of first floor space. Lucas said he's taking applications for commercial/retail use for one or two businesses or professional offices.
The existing entrance will be revamped to access a vestibule, which will have an elevator and a stairway to the second and third floors. The only access to that space now is a narrow stairway from the rear of the building or through the neighboring bank.
The upper floors were occupied by the Hoeppner, Wagner and Evans law firm until recently, but Lucas said he plans to move his law offices to the third floor and possibly a portion of the second floor. That will leave four to six other spaces available for professional offices.
"It's got a great view of the courthouse," he said.
Most of the facade improvements will be to the first floor while the rest will be mostly cleaning up the brick facing. New windows also will be installed on the first floor. He hopes to have a contractor selected in three to four weeks. Altogether the building has 23,000 square feet.
"We welcome any help from the city we can get," he said.
The council is expected to vote on the application at its Sept. 23 meeting. At that meeting the council also will hold a public hearing on the city's petition to annex the Aldi warehouse property at Ind. 49 and Division Road. The commission voted unanimously in favor of the annexation Tuesday.