NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) – Developers will soon breathe new life into an historic New Albany building. New Albany City Council approved plans Monday night to transform the Reisz Furniture building into its new City Hall.
It opened in 1852 as a flour mill, spending time as a shirt factory and even a funeral home. It's sat empty for decades but with the council's decision to move forward with city hall plans, that will soon change.
"When you look at it, it's obviously a blight at this point. But so were a lot of these buildings before people had taken an interest in them," said New Albany, Indiana Mayor Jeff Gahan.
Monday night's council vote approves restoring the more than 160-year-old building. That's welcome news for many of Reisz's neighbors, like Sew Fitting.
"I'm thrilled to see something happening, so we don't come in wondering if today's the day the building's going to fall down," said Cisa Kuvley, owner and head tailor at Sew Fitting.
When she moved to Main Street three and a half years ago, she said the block wasn't much to look at. They were the first business to move into the Underground Station. Since then, the block has transformed.
Mayor Jeff Gahan says economic development downtown transformed the area, and repairing Reisz will be a catalyst for more growth.
"Historic preservation is a good investment for communities like ours, we're over 200 years old," Gahan said. "The city of New Albany is a historic town, and so you hate to lose an old structure like that. And it would have gone by the wayside, there's no question had we not taken steps to save it. But more importantly, we're going to put it to a use, a very good use for the people of New Albany."
The project has been hotly contested in the community. Some opposed to the cost, others to how city leaders went about the process.
"If there was nothing shady going on, I think why not an open bid process if they didn't have anything to hide?" Kuvley said.
Developer Denton Floyd say it will take 14 months to restore, and cost roughly $6.4-million dollars. When it's done, it will create a new chapter for the building and the community.
"It's really one of the last major eyesores on this block," Kuvley said. "So visually it will improve things a lot. I just hope that they will go about things moving forward in a much more transparent and responsible way."
"But we don't want to rush it, we want it to be right," Gahan said. "And it's a building that will serve New Albany for a long time."
For more information on the history of the building and the project, visit the New Albany, Indiana website here.
Brandon Denton with Denton Floyd said they're looking forward to restoring the history of the building here while creating a city hall the community can be proud of.