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CROWN POINT — It's easy to see the vision.

As Gloria Tuohy walks around the three-story, 20,000-square-foot building that will become the new home of the Indiana Ballet Company, her vision is phenomenal. It's real and it's beautiful.

She looks past the walls with large holes in them, the plaster that is falling down around her and the smells that come from a brick building that is almost 100 years old but has been closed up for many years.

On the first floor of the building, at 2323 Main St., Tuohy envisions that visitors will walk into a reception area in the front. To the left of the receptionist or the south side of the building, there will be a black box theater. To the right or north end, there may be a bistro or tea room with a beautiful balcony where people can sit outside and enjoy the scenery.

The second floor will house the South Shore Arts and possibly other artists.

And the third floor will house, Tuohy's baby — the Indiana Ballet Theatre. The ballet company is 40 years old — 20 years as a nonprofit organization. The company currently has nine classical ballets in its repertoire that it's brought to Region residents through the years.

The School of Indiana Ballet Theatre offers a range of dance disciplines, including ballet, tap, Irish dance, hip-hop and more. Tuohy and her daughter Amanda also are on the teaching staff at the school.

Tuohy, a resident of Crown Point, operates three dance schools in Merrillville, DeMotte and Valparaiso.

The vision for the outside of 2323 Main St. is to have natural gardens, a playground and a performance area outside as well as being a destination for families to visit and enjoy.

Somewhere in the building, Tuohy also is planning to have a historic room to highlight the nurses who formerly lived in the building. For many years, the beautiful, red-brick building at 2323 N. Main St. was a nurses dormitory. It served as quarters for the nurses to the former Lake County tuberculosis sanatorium. It still has the sinks, bedrooms and bathtubs that the nurses living there would have used.

On the lower level, there may be a small banquet room that Tuohy can use and rent to members of the community. 

Tuohy said the Lake County commissioners initially gave the building to her in 2003 with conditions. Since then, she has raised about $500,000, which was invested into the building's exterior, including all new windows.

She said the commissioners also assisted with rebuilding the front steps. The Indiana Ballet Company received a grant from the Department of Natural Resources to put on a new roof.

On their toes

Although the ballet group received the building 15 years ago, Tuohy said they didn't own it outright until last year. The commissioners gave the ballet company the deed to the building and 1.7 acres of land with no conditions in February 2017. She said once that was done, it made it easier to raise money.

Previous county commissioners agreed in 2003 to let the ballet group begin restoring the long-abandoned structure. Tuohy said they had raised and spent $500,000 to replace windows and make other exterior repairs. They also removed the asbestos from the building.

She said it will cost about $3 million to completely renovate the inside of the building. Tuohy said Tech Credit Union already has offered to loan the ballet company $2 million to replace the building's decaying interior, and she must raise the remaining $1 million.

"The building is not up to code and we have to have all of the interior rebuilt on every floor," she said. "The engineers and the architects developed a plan where they will gut the inside, take the new roof off and rebuild it, then put the roof back on. They will put in pre-fabricated floors and it will make the inside altogether new, still keeping some of the historic charm of the building."

Tuohy said the Crown Point City Council's approval Aug. 6 to waive about $30,000 in building fees paves the way for the organization to intensify its fundraising plans.

It was Crown Point Councilwoman Carol Drasga who supported the request and pushed for its approval.

"We're waiving the fee, but it's going to benefit the city in the long run because of the usage of that building," she told her council members.

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Southlake County Reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.