Heritage House

Workmen install a fence around the Heritage House building Wednesday in preparation for restoration work. Completion of the hotel and conference center is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

When chain-link fence was erected around the Heritage House building earlier this week, it signaled the official start of the long-awaited rehabilitation of one of the city’s most historic existing structures.

Upon receiving approval to proceed last week from the City Council, the development company wasted little time in starting the prep work that will precede the restoration of the former Kenosha Elks Club building. The project also includes an accompanying hotel building to its south.

Upon completion, Gorman & Company, the Oregon, Wis.-based firm, will also manage the facility at 5708 Eighth Ave. It features a luxury 80-room hotel, restaurant and bar, exercise facility and conference center. The final price tag on the project is estimated to be $26 million.

‘We are just

at the very beginning’

Construction superintendent Scott McKinlay explained that the process of bringing the building back to life will take many months. “We are just at the very beginning,” said McKinlay. “We are placing dumpsters for the removal of demolition materials.”

McKinlay said the inside cleanup and restoration will start from the basement and work its way to the roof. Many inside walls will be removed, he added.

Every opening — windows and doors — will be reworked, and the iconic larger windows on the east face of the building, as well as the windows on the west side, will be removed and sent to experts for restoration.

Inside trim pieces will be salvaged and reworked, when possible, or photographed and copied to replicate the original style, McKinlay said.

Over the course of the project, as many as 50 people will be on-site on any given day doing a wide variety of work on the rehab, he said. More than 30 different trades will be called on to breathe new life into the building.

Almost as quickly as the rehabilitation work hits its stride, the adjacent building, which will feature the majority of the hotel rooms, will get underway. McKinlay said it is off the mark to think of the project as two different buildings. “The 70-unit building will start next month,” he said. “It’s critical that the (two elements) move together through construction.”

Completion of the project could come by the end of 2018.

“We’ve waited for this day for a long time,” said Ted Matkom, Wisconsin market president for Gorman, after the company won final approval from the city. “We’ve had many ebbs and flows in terms of this project going forward — stopping, going forward, stopping. Finally, everyone from the state to the city, everybody got on the same page.”

Multiple finance sources

The project is financed from multiple sources, including $7.12 million leverage term loan from First Business Bank; $3 million in city tax increment financing funds to be repaid over several years; $1.25 million loan from the Kenosha Area Business Alliance; $800,000 loan from Impact Seven, a certified Community Development Financial Institution; and others.

If the hotel is not built or the project fails, Gorman has agreed to raze the building at his expense.

The proceeds of the sale of the building to Gorman for $122,500 will go to Kenosha County to recoup past unpaid taxes on the property.