The open-air pavilion near Portage Lakefront Park and Riverwalk might be enclosed to make it more functional.
Tom Kuhn, president of CSK Architects, is putting together a proposal to redesign the building before the Redevelopment Commission agrees to pay for his work.
“Something needs to be done in this building to make it usable because it’s not usable now. It’s just sitting there,” City Council Vice President Scott Williams said. He’s pushing to use a portion of the building as a makerspace.
Half the building would be a makerspace; the other half could remain a rental venue.
“Enclosing it would make sense. It would be an easier to rent space if it were to be enclosed,” Councilman and commission member Collin Czilli said. “It’s really hard to hold a wedding there now with the wind blowing through and the train noise.”
Mayor Sue Lynch also favors the idea. “Once the weather starts changing, that building will sit there until April, and nothing will happen with it,” she said. “This will take that building to a whole new level, and we’ll be able to utilize it for many, many things.”
Kuhn said the makerspace would include a wood shop, metal shop, computer lab, darkroom and computer lab. An outdoor welding shop would also be added.
The HVAC system is obsolete and nonfunctional, he said.
“We would enclose the fireplace on the outside,” Kuhn said. “That didn’t work out so hot.”
Kuhn offered an initial guesstimate of $2.5 million for the project, that didn’t include insulation or equipment. Except for the ceiling, the open-air portion of the building has no insulation.
Director of Community Planning and Development AJ Monroe said the parks department needs to be involved in the discussion because that department handles rentals for the pavilion.
Enclosing the east side of the pavilion would allow big events to be held there. The 8,000 square feet on the west side is plenty of space to launch a makerspace, Williams said.
If the pavilion becomes a popular rental space for big events, that would affect how existing spaces at Woodland Park are used. The downstairs Oakwood Room could become a gymnasium, Monroe said.
Williams and his team have spent eight months putting together a business plan. “I’m going to ask you to take 30 days to look at that plan and I’ll be back,” he told the Redevelopment Commission at its recent meeting.
Williams asked the commission to commit to paying CSK $160,000 for engineering and design work. Monroe said there’s enough money in the budget to pay for the work, but he wants CSK to define the scope of its proposed work before committing to paying for it.
“At some point we’re going to be paying the $160,000 for design either on this project or for whatever comes along if this building doesn’t happen,” Czilli said.
Doug Ross is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.