Daily Journal

A company is interested in moving into Greenwood’s former city hall, but a study is needed to determine how much work the building needs.

Several medical service companies owned by the same person are interested in moving into the former Greenwood city hall building, known as the Polk building, at 2 N. Madison Ave. The companies, which have offices in Greenwood and Bloomington, would move about 150 jobs from other locations into the one building.

The Polk Memorial Community House on Madison Avenue in Greenwood was built in 1920 with money donated by James T. Polk, a canning company magnate who had run the largest cannery west of Maryland in Greenwood.

The building included a library, a gymnasium, a pool in the basement and a 500-seat auditorium, where an amateur acting troupe called the Greenwood Community Players performed and residents watched silent films. Churches gathered in the community house, and many youth sports programs operated out of the gym. Children boxed, swam and batted around volleyballs. They even practiced golf indoors.

The city moved its offices into the building in the 1980s. Last year, those offices were relocated to the bank tower on South Madison Avenue. Now the the structure is empty.

The building has been in need of work for years, and portions of it are closed off and haven’t been used in years. Past estimates for renovating the building have ranged from $1.5 million to $2.5 million. But city officials aren’t sure how much renovating the building could cost. If the renovation cost is low enough, the city intends to pay for the renovations by using tax-increment financing district funds.

So far, the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission agreed to pay $110,000 to complete a survey, environmental engineering, cleaning and protection on the gymnasium ceiling, and one-third of the architect’s fees to keep working toward updating the building.

Another $140,000 will need to be spent to get the building ready for someone to lease, according to city controller Adam Stone. If after the initial $110,000 is spent, and the building is not in as good of shape as city officials thought, the city can put the project on hold, Stone said.

The redevelopment commission did not want to spend $250,000 then lose the investment if it found out that the building would cost too much to renovate, commission member Thom Hord said. So the board approved only $110,000 of the initial $250,000 needed and said it would receive updates on the building next month.

A one-step-at-a-time approach to restoring the Polk building is a wise course. That way, Greenwood won’t find itself committed to more than it can handle, and officials and the public will have a realistic idea about what it will take to preserve the building.

At issue

A company is interested in moving into the former Greenwood city hall.

Our point

By fully assessing costs beforehand, the city will have a more realistic idea of what it will take to preserve the building.