Nearly a century of downtown Wabash property has been and will be maintained and updated this year, which a local involved in the matter believes will help area business.

Lisa Gilman, Wabash, and a collection of architects, engineers and construction workers are currently working on creating three commercial and four residential spaces available at 41 and 47 W. Market St., with a goal to also help make the area a well-rounded downtown.

Gilman, a member of Redemption Development, a company she started two years ago that redevelops buildings in disrepair, purchased the separate, yet identical, properties in June 2012.

The first floor of the 41 W. Market St. property is an approximate 2,000-square-feet, commercial space, while 47 W. Market St. property has two spaces that take up approximately 700-750 square feet and approximately 950 square feet.

Gilman told to the Plain Dealer that she has a party that has already shown interest in using the larger of the 47 W. Market St. spaces.

Upstairs, the properties’ four apartments, all approximately 1,000 square feet in size, will feature fire places, fiber-optic cables, balconies and original beams.

Gilman has previously worked in urban planning and development in South Bend and Indianapolis and has also worked in non-profit housing in Elkhart, which segued her presence in downtown Wabash.

“Nothing is worse than having these wonderful structures just sitting vacant,” Gilman said. “They weren’t adding anything to the community and if we’re able to put those back into service they’re now generating income and tax revenue, employing people and people are living in them.

“They just become so viable. They’re so important for the vibrancy of a community. So the more we can occupy buildings, both residential and commercial, I believe that can really impact the community…”

According to Gilman, approximately 99 percent of the funds used to redevelop the buildings come from savings she and her husband, Michael Rheinheimer, have and The Wabash Marketplace Inc. awarded the couple $10,000 in façade grant money for each building as well.

Maintaining the buildings’ history is also a main component for Gilman. She is currently in the midst of a project with the properties to have them meet federal historic guidelines, which can earn her a 20 percent tax credit on her investments.

According to Gilman, pharmacies almost completely dominated the inhabitance of the 41. Market St. property, with Gackenheimer Pharmacies having the longest tenure. Then, in March 1948, a fire collapsed the building, but was eventually refurbished with a new façade, which has since been removed. The buildings also have a history of downtown business, formerly being Billings Flowers and Gifts and the Hallmark Store.

Gilman believes a well-rounded downtown area can do wonders locally.

“You’ve got people living downtown,” Gilman said of Wabash, citing apartments above Modoc’s Market. “When you have people living in your downtown, you automatically have energy that’s there 24-7. So you not only have people during the day working, but you have people there in the evening who are going to be utilizing services, going to dinner or a movie or a show.

“And that happens anyway, but it happens more so when they’re living downtown. And the more of this you have, the more buildings that have residential uses in them…that’s what makes it more vibrant.”

Gilman sees downtown Wabash as an easy place to sell to possible property buyers.

“I mean look at all of the stuff that’s going on downtown,” she said. “Warsaw, South Bend and Elkhart don’t have that. I mean, they have some of the components, but Wabash has so much right downtown…more than most communities I’ve ever seen.

“That’s why I think this community has so much to offer, especially for people who are interested in living downtown.”

Gilman also has preliminary plans for the future to repurpose a building across the street from the aforementioned properties.

Previously, Bill Konyha, president and CEO of the Economic Development Group of Wabash County, believes downtown development such as this precisely what the county needs.

“This is exactly the kind of renovation that we want to happen in both Wabash and North Manchester,” he said. “The adaptive reuse of existing, historic buildings that reclaims ground level commercial space and creates new living units on second and third floors will enable both communities to attract millennial generation residents.”

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