137 East State Street

The building has character. As one of the few medium-sized, signature buildings near the Capitol that still exists, it's now preserved and enhanced with late 20th century design and construction ingenuity. – JIM HAVENS

After a $2 million renovation and the addition of a 30-space parking lot, 137 East State Street, a building dating back to World War I, was restored, the ownership transferred, and fully occupied within the span of two years.

Lobbyists Paul Tipps and Neil Clark contracted with Calgary Real Estate Development partners Jim Havens and Sam Koon to acquire and renovate the 16,000 square-foot building. Tearing down the outdated building appeared to be the best route economically, but as one of only a few signature medium-sized buildings left in the city, Jim Havens, who directed the project, felt renovation might actually be the smartest route. "These smaller buildings allow businesses the opportunity for a downtown location; and to own a building without the burden of having to lease out the balance, which is often the case with a larger suburban office building. Besides, historic buildings have character and are very suitable to serve as marquee buildings for business."

The two-story building with a historic Italianate limestone facade and bay windows was actually two separate structures. The main section was built in 1918 as doctors' offices. The southern rear half was added in the 1930s. The eventual melding of the two buildings resulted in uneven floors; the primary factor in the decision to tear out the inner walls and floor and rebuild the entire structure from basement up. Among the building's other problems was antiquated electrical wiring.

The city's Downtown Commission required the preservation of certain architectural elements - the original bay windows and the front barrel arch. The commission was less concerned with the interiors which allowed for the gutting of the structure and essentially erecting new buildings inside the old facades, where most of the challenges were encountered.

Starting almost at square one, and removing almost everything down to the four walls - including the roof, Havens gutted the two-story structure to add glass stairwells and rebuild a 24,000 square-foot, two story office building within the shell.

The most daunting aspect of the renovation was finding a way to temporarily hold up the exterior structure while the interior framing was rebuilt. The original soft clay bricks and limeless mortar used in 1918 didn't provide the same support as today's brick and cement mortar. A contractor's plan of putting large steel I-beam columns on the supporting side of each of the walls and tying them together at the roof line was the answer.

Another challenge lay in the interior lighting. The long, narrow building runs 188 feet deep, right up the end of the property. Fire code regulations banned windows that could spread flames to adjacent buildings. Skylights seemed the only answer, until designer Damon Baker developed plans to cut out 15-foot by 15-foot inverted light wells (two on each level) to bring much-needed natural light into the building, which in turn gave every office within the building a view of the nearby Statehouse and two recessed courts on each side. A common lobby serves the building's professional offices.

Calgary Real Estate Development handled the $585,000 acquisition; preserving the exterior and gutting the interior for a combined cost of $2.3 million. Baker Henning Productions, Inc., a Columbus specialist in historic renovation, was general contractor. Frank Elmer Associates served as project architect.

The Italianate terra cotta State Street façade was faithfully restored. The renovation and the addition of a 30-space parking lot west of the building were completed in 1998. Ownership was then transferred to State Street Partners, Paul Tipps' Public Policy Consultants, Inc., and Neil Clarks' NSC Consulting Corporation, who occupy the building. The 80-year-old building that was purchased in 1997 attained full occupancy in Feb. 1999.

In assessing the project, Havens said, "Downtown tends to be in its own world. You take what's there. The land is more expensive and parking is a difficult issue, so you've got to be more creative if you want to be in the center of the city." (Dispatch)

"What resulted was, essentially, a new building with character," said Ken Ferrell, the planning manager for the city's downtown development office. "The opportunity for redevelopment of the property was handled by that case. The corner building with its limestone front, was the most significant building. It maintains a sense of development density at State and Fourth."