An historic downtown Terre Haute building will soon become a business hub for West Central Indiana.
Work is slated to start Feb. 1 on transforming the first two floors of the former Hulman and Co. building at Ninth Street and Wabash Avenue into a one-stop business hub.
It’s part of the Wabash River Regional Development Authority’s plan announced in June that divided $20 million in state grant funds among 23 projects in the Wabash Valley.
A $500,000 READI grant was slated to establish a West Central Business Hub. That grant will be matched with $500,000 of local funds.
Bidding on the improvement work will be held in January, as part of the READI grant, said Brian Kooistra, executive vice president of Gibson Development Inc.
Kooistra, formerly executive vice president of Garmong Construction Services, has overseen several projects in Terre Haute, including the construction of the downtown convention center.
On the second floor of the Hulman & Co. building, offices will be made for the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., Terre Haute Redevelopment Department, the Terre Haute Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the Western Indiana Workforce Investment Board, Inc., Kooistra said.
The first floor will host the office of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, taking the south portion of the first floor, with Launch Terre Haute taking the northern portion of the first floor.
That Launch Terre Haute space includes a teaching kitchen area that can be used for the co-working space “for potential restaurant operators that want to have facilities to test out their food and develop a menu and work toward opening their own restaurant,” Kooistra said.
“We are also actively seeking a tenant to operate the bake shop” on the first floor, Kooistra said.
The business groups are expected to move into the new space in the Hulman & Co. building in the second quarter of 2023, likely by May.
“The idea is to get everything under one roof to really make things easier for businesses to seek those resources, and it’s a model that has been proven in other locations, such as Evansville and Fort Wayne, among other locations,” Kooistra said.
Terre Haute native Greg Gibson bought the Hulman and Co. in 2020. The downtown building has been a fixture in the community since its opening in 1893.
“I think, through the READI grants, the community has had the idea of co-locating all these economic development agencies, which I think is a great idea,” Gibson said.
“… It fits well here and helps revitalize this building. I didn’t have that in mind when I bought the building,” he said. “I just felt like the building needed to have an owner that’s interested in downtown and wanted to save it and its historical value and try to put it to good use.”
The first-floor offices will be housed around the character of the building, which includes a massive generator wheel once used to power the former Clabber Girl factory, an elevated train set and, on the south side of the first floor, several former Clabber Girl museum displays.
“We plan to incorporate a lot of it into the space. I think it would be great to display a lot of this to the community and have the chamber in here,” Gibson said. “A lot of the office space is already here. I think it will work well.”
One of the Chamber of Commerce offices will be inside what had been a “saloon” display for the museum.
The Hulman & Co. building has 150,000 square feet and about 20,000 square feet will be utilized for the business hub, Kooistra said.
That leaves five floors open for office development or even residential development.
“I look at this as being Phase I, with Phase II being (development) of the upper floors,” Kooistra said. “… Just walking people through the building has (created) a lot of initial interest for people to locate on the upper floors.”
Additionally, another building directly to the north of the Hulman & Co. building, called Building No. 2, is vacant and can be used for future development, Kooistra said.
At Eighth and Cherry
In another project, Gibson is working to renovate the Indiana Government office building at 8th and Cherry streets in 2023.
“We are trying to move that forward right away,” Gibson said. “We are working with the state now on those renovations and what needs to be done,” Gibson said. The renovations are being done in hopes of securing a long-term lease with the state to keep the state offices in one location in the downtown, he said.
“We want to keep all those employees downtown. It is good for the restaurants and good for business certainly,” Gibson said. That state office building was purchased by Gibson in 2019 and is owned under Fontanet Holdings LLC.