Koerner Block volunteers organize, issue call for logoApril 19, 2017
By BILL POWELL
BIRDSEYE — Volunteers working to save Birdseye’s vacant Koerner Commercial Block building selected a slate of officers Monday and asked for the public to come up with an appropriate logo.
The Save The Koerner Block Committee formed in December to rescue what’s left of the structure at 101 and 103 State Road 145 that was built to a grand scale in the 1890s.
Last month, the volunteers who are working with Indiana Landmarks achieved their first major step forward when a Cooper Contracting crew from Huntingburg used heavy equipment for a selective demolition that took down a jagged brick wall and sagging roofing left after a 2013 partial collapse of a portion of the rear of the building.
Plans are currently being made to close off the interior of the downtown landmark with temporary plastic sheeting and to begin re-enforcing the overall structure, which still retains a boat-like mezzanine and other artistic details.
Committee members chose officers Monday who will help craft the preservation effort’s next steps. Archie McCutcheon was named chairman, with Kelly Zehr selected as vice chair and Mary Ann Cummings chosen as secretary/treasurer.
Those officers said the Save The Koerner Block Committee should have a logo. Cummings offered a $25 prize for anyone coming up with a winning design.
The floor is wide open, so a logo could have a simple KB for the Koerner Blockers, a tri-letter KBC in recognition of the Koerner Block Committee or an image showing part or all of the freestanding building.
Entries should be mailed before May 15 to Archie McCutcheon, P.O. Box 4, Birdseye, IN, 47513.
Committee members think they can make a compelling case that the Koerner Block, at the heart of Birdseye’s downtown, is significant to the town and the county and should be saved.
Donations to their cause and fundraisers such as selling homemade chicken noodle soup for $15 a gallon raised enough money to cover the $3,855 cost of the selective demolition.
Several applications seeking grants from area entities have or will be going out soon to fund the next Koerner Block stabilization work.
How the volunteers proceed was a subject up for much discussion Monday.
Indiana Landmarks has an option agreement with the current owners of the Koerner Block, Ronald and Karen Ellis, who have given consent for the selective demolition and said they are willing to donate the building.
The option agreement gives Indiana Landmarks the first right to receive the building as a donation from the Ellises should a third-party buyer be found to take on the rehabilitation of the property.
On Monday, Greg Sekula, Indiana Landmarks’ southern region director, suggested the committee might consider going after official 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.
“The idea would be the nonprofit group would consider taking ownership of the property and then deciding how to best use the building,” Sekula said.
Currently, a challenge in seeking grant funds is the fact that the volunteers can’t state the intended use of the building.
“As I’ve done this job now for 15 years and have worked in communities,” Sekula said, “one of the things that is so important is local communities taking control of their destiny and deciding what they want their community to become.”
The Koerner Block essentially has three storefront areas. Sekula said a nonprofit group could own the building, cover the restoration and find tenants for uses the community wants and needs, such as a youth hangout, a senior center or some type of restaurant.
“Could it be a unifying thing for the town and bring people together around a common project that would inspire hope for the community?” Sekula asked.
While volunteers generally agreed that is something to mull over, discussion turned to future work days at the site and a potential dance fundraiser, which looks like it could happen in June.
The next planning meeting for the volunteers was scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, May 15 at Birdseye Town Hall, 103 W. State Road 64.
Anyone willing to donate to the stabilization effort can make checks payable to Indiana Landmarks, 115 W. Chestnut St., Jeffersonville, IN 47130 and put Birdseye Koerner Block in the memo line.
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