CROWN POINT — With the building just days away from being completely vacated, developers are looking to move quickly with renovations to downtown’s three-story Old Town Square Antique Mall.
Crown Point’s Historic Preservation Commission, however, hit the brakes on development Tuesday night.
Petitioner Jim Keilman, of R. Keilman Associates, representing building owner Randy Sekerez, presented plans and renderings to the board, seeking facade renovation approval for the three historic buildings the sprawling antique mall at 101-107 W. Joliet St.
“Randy wishes to restore the building as much as he can within his means. He plans on spending a lot of money on the building on the outside and on the inside,” Keilman said during the meeting. “I know this is a big project. This is a cornerstone building in Crown Point. It deserves time and a lot of attention, but we do want to move forward with it as soon as we can.”
Renovations to the exterior of the building include restoring the brick, exterior masonry, windows, storefront glass, signs and cornice trim that tops the building. The store front would be replaced and a new fabric canopy would be installed. The railing around the stairwell will be taken out and replaced with period wrought iron to match new hardwood period-type architectural doors.
The iconic blue-painted “Antique Mall” arrow will also be removed from the side of the building.
Keilman said extensive improvements will also need to be made to the interior, as ceilings are dropping.
The goal is to start construction this summer.
The commission said it had further questions that need to be addressed before granting the certificate of appropriateness. One of the biggest issues raised during Tuesday’s meeting was whether the developer could keep the white-wooded windows that face Crown Point’s downtown.
Keilman initially proposed the installation of dark bronze anodized aluminum windows.
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Commission member Dan Rohaley said the new windows would look too modern and commercialized, veering away from downtown’s historic charm.
“We need to try to keep the white-wooded windows,” Rohaley said. “Modernizing everything is not what the historic district is about. The historic district is about trying to maintain some of the characteristics. … This is a watershed moment for us. Yes, we have approved other buildings around the square, but this faces the square. We have to take a stand that anything that faces inward should preserve the character and integrity of what was there.”
With 37 windows total, it will be expensive to keep the wood, Sekerez said. He told the board he will, however, explore other options for keeping the color and character with wood or aluminum windows.
After the commission deferred approval, Sekerez agreed to return June 10 for a special meeting with Brad Miller, director of the Northwest Field Office of Indiana Landmarks, a nonprofit that repurposes historic buildings. Miller has been working with the commission and developers on the project.
The Antique Mall is one of the largest and oldest antique stores in the Region, dating back as far as 146 years. That's why Commission Chairman Paul Bremer said it’s important that renovations are done right.
“This is one of the most significant buildings on the square and we have been waiting a long time for something to come forward and be done,” Bremer said. “We want to do it the right way. We are trying to maintain the integrity of the square.”
By Friday, about 90 vendors and eight employees will be displaced when the mall officially closes.
"Everybody is sick to see us leave," said employee Aria Manalan, who's worked there for 26 years, in a previous Times report. "I think we're an anchor for the town. So many people come for us. We get busloads of people. We get people from southern Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. They bus them in here, and people walk around the town. I think business won't be as good without us. Everybody's saying they can't believe it. Everybody's saying they're so sad."
Sekerez said the future use of the three buildings has not yet been determined, as the developer is focused on getting renovations complete.