TOWER- This is the year that significant progress on the Lake Vermilion Cultural Center will begin. That was the message at this year’s Midsummer Gala, the annual fundraiser for the project to …
TOWER- This is the year that significant progress on the Lake Vermilion Cultural Center will begin. That was the message at this year’s Midsummer Gala, the annual fundraiser for the project to restore the historic St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and create a cultural center in downtown Tower.
The 125-plus year-old church was moved from its location on North Second Street to Main Street in 2015. It was placed onto a new foundation with a full basement. Since then, a storage garage has been constructed on the site, and a lobby addition that wraps around the old church was added to create more interior space.
But for the past several years, the building has sat, and to the outside eye, no progress was being made.
But as Nancy Larson, who has been leading the development effort for LVCC noted, the past two years have been spent working with architects with experience in historical preservation and working up plans to bring the structure up to code.
“People don’t think that a lot has been happening,” she said. “But it has…We realized that the building was over 100 years old, and not up to current standards.”
The work will begin this summer, thanks to a $268,000 grant from the IRRRB.
The city of Tower is also submitting a new grant to help fund some of the demolition costs that are part of the project. The project qualified for those funds this past year, but the funding ran out, so they had to wait for the next funding cycle, which starts in July.
Larson said the public bidding process, being overseen by the city of Tower, is now underway. They are hoping that actual construction will begin in August, and that by the end of this fall the building will have electrical, plumbing, and rough mechanical work completed in the basement, exterior framing completed, the new roof installed, and work to be done on the new handicap-accessible entrances. The initial scope of work is also focused on insuring the structure is brought up to present day building and safety codes and making sure the structure is safe from the elements so that the interior renovations can begin.
Larson said the big question right now is how the bids will come in, and how much of the needed work will be covered by the grant. Initial estimates were hopeful that all the required work could be completed with the grant funding.
The next major push, Larson said, was a new capital campaign to raise $200,000 to get the interior of the building, specifically the auditorium area, completed so that programs can start being held in the building next year. Once the building is in use, they will be eligible for additional grants that will help cover the costs of seating and the elevator.
“LVCC received an anonymous pledge of $25,000,” Larson said. “An additional $5,000 was pledged by another family at the Midsummer gala.”
The Midsummer fundraiser went very well, though final totals were not yet available. The live auction alone raised over $5,000.
Larson said the board is planning on conducting “hard hat” tours of the building this fall, to show people the progress that has been made.
The final exterior work on the building, including installation of new exterior siding and the re-installation of the restored stained glass windows, needs to wait until most of the major renovations are completed.