- Associated Press - Sunday, June 21, 2015

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A dilapidated but historically significant 19th century row house in downtown Evansville is expected to open to tenants by next spring, a developer says.

Developer Mike Martin told the Evansville Courier & Press (http://bit.ly/1BD6dIp) workers have nearly completed the initial stabilization of the long-vacant Owen Block. Workers have replaced damaged components with new timber framing for the roof and inside, removing windows and window frames.

Jesika Ellis, an organizer of Owen Block supporters who helped fund the renovation, said she’s excited about the work being done.

“To think that a year after (the rescue campaign) happened, that there may be people living in there and it may be full of life again, it’s absolutely thrilling,” she said.

City officials were talking about demolishing the Owen Block two years ago because of significant structural problems and because the building’s previous owner had stopped paying taxes on it and would not pay for repairs.

The building, built by prominent Evansville surgeon and investor Dr. Abraham Owen, appeared annually on the Preservation Alliance of Evansville’s “Most Endangered Places” list. But things began to look up last year, when supporters used social media to galvanize historical preservation advocates and city government officials.

In March, the nonprofit historic preservation group Indiana Landmarks bought the building and transferred it to Martin’s limited liability corporation. Plenty of private money, and $100,000 in taxpayer money, went into the Owen Block rescue effort.

City officials and Landmarks have justified the expenditure of tax dollars on the blighted Owen Block by saying it will pay off in future property tax receipts. They also point out that the city’s initial $50,000 infusion of public money is less than city officials estimated for demolishing the building with public money.

Martin and workers on the Owen Block redevelopment scene said people regularly inquire about living in one of the building’s planned new 15 one-bedroom apartments.

“We have several interested parties wanting to pick out their spots in the building, and we have a couple that come by on a weekly basis and are very, very interested in it, which is very exciting - that people want to be a part of it,” he said.

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com

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