By Karen Cornelius
The Vermilion Parks and Recreation Board met on Tuesday night, June 20, and heard an update on the former museum property by the board’s Wakefield House Development Committee chairman Jon Logue. While the architectural firm, DS Architecture, informed the committee they have a good building, there is a rough estimate of $5 million to completely renovate everything. There’s one big problem, finding out where all this money will come from to move on. Another factorto consider, is this project too big to handle without scaling it down?
According to the minutes, Logue reported the architects would still have to take the next step to do the full schematic which will give them more of an exact number. The next step, however, would cost another $85,000. Money they also don’t have yet. This step would be the third part of their project and program planning with the architects. Once they have the $85,000 to go forward with the full schematic drawing, it would only take a couple months to develop full plans. Actual construction would depend on funding.
Logue suggested they can try to get funding through the state or entertain some historic tax credits to pay for the full renovations. There is a process to go through to obtain historic tax credits by filling out the tax credit applications and finding a tax credit investor and attorney. It could be possible they can earn about $1.5 million in selling the tax credits so the board would need to raise $3.5 million. If the board decides to go that route, then they have to commit to the whole project. Logue said the next round of tax credit applications is September 30. He said their committee has to look at this again and learn more on tax credits and whether this is something they need to move forward with or decide if this is too much of a big project that they need to rethink.
Parks board chairman Elizabeth Wakefield asked if the tax credit investor has to be local. Logue thought an investor didn’t have to be local, but there is a lot still to learn about historic tax credits. He was advised they can get a small portion of the project funded if they go that route. Logue said they have been told all along by the architects that the addition of the museum that was added in the 1960’s would fall under tax credits because it’s attached to an old building, the former Wakefield house and former Inland Seas Maritime Museum. He said it is also feasible to knock down that addition and hold onto the Wakefield house and do something with that at a later date. They could just build restrooms where the addition was. Logue said there are still many things to learn about and the committee is not ready to make a recommendation yet.
From the audience, Dan Pryor addressed the actual land usage and plans of the building. Logue said there are rough ideas, but they need to do the full schematics and program planning within the structure. He said if they are not ready to apply for tax credits in September the next application would be in March of 2018. They could use the time between now and next March to raise the money needed, $85,000 to go forward with the final plans. If everything works out, movement could start next spring.
Pryor asked if there was going to be a snack bar or restaurant there, and if there’s a snack bar is that part-time use. Logue said this was undecided, but the committee will make a recommendation to the parks board. He said no one thinks they will have a full service restaurant there. However, that could be up to the city because they own the building. Logue added that because they would need to generate revenue, there would need to be a party center for weddings, meetings, or banquets. There also would need to be restrooms. The uses are something that need to be worked out, but first, they need to find the money.
Vermilion city council representative to parks board, Brian Holmes, stated that Lakeview Beach is a good example. He said they tried a restaurant that didn’t work so they run the concessions down below. Their Sunset Terrace is rented out for weddings and banquets which stays very busy. Logue said any revenue generated would not go into the city’s general fund and any excess would go right back into the property. They need revenue from this property to care for the building because the city and parks board cannot take on that kind of cost.
Pryor said they need restrooms now because it’s embarrassing to director people to a porta-john. He proposed the committee move ahead with a stand-alone restroom. At Main Street Beach, people think the pump house for the water plant is a restroom so signage has been requested to identify it.
From the audience, Jennie McClendon Pryor asked who is caring for the inside of the building to make sure it doesn’t go downhill any more than it has with leaks and ventilation problems. Logue said there is a caretaker checking every day, and the building inside is not in that bad a shape aside from holes in the roof where there are buckets out. He would like the roof patched, but if they fix the roof now at a cost of $130,000 he isn’t sure they can apply those dollars to the proposed tax credits. Logue said there are drainage problems around the building which makes stopping the moisture going into the building impossible. Logue said he was told there is a drain that is not making it out to the lake, but no one knows where it is. Pryor suggested they hire someone to locate it with a camera. Chairman Wakefield asked Logue to talk with the city service director to pursue this problem.
Parks board then moved on to other business after Logue’s report with no further comments, but a lot to think about concerning the future of this beautiful property now named the Harbor View Park and dedicated to the public.