LEBANON — The Lebanon Redevelopment Commission will soon entertain proposals to create a co-working and maker’s space two blocks north of the town’s courthouse square. The location in this city northwest of Indianapolis has housed three car dealerships in past decades, most recently the former Bill Estes Dodge Chrysler dealership.
The RDC announced its intent to buy the property in July, using $520,000 in Tax Increment Financing funds. On Dec. 20, the property became the property of the city.
With the property signed over, the RDC is now planned to serve as the landlord and leave the operation of the facility up to an independent operator, Lebanon Planning Director Ben Bontrager said.
Bontrager and Community Development Director Joe LePage outlined the next steps to procure an operator to the RDC at their meeting this past Monday.
The first step was approved Monday — the RDC allocated an amount not exceed $5,000 to get to appraisals to determine a rental value that the operator would pay the RDC to use the space.
Once the rental value is determined the RDC will solicit lease offers via public notice.
Bontrager said the lease proposal will be much more than agreeing to pay the amount. Successful proposals will include a business plan that details what improvements to the property the lessor will make, how the project will have cash flow, what amenities will be offered at the space and more.
LePage said the city has spoken with four people who are interested in the space, three of whom already run an existing co-working space in the area.
The city and the RDC are taking a unique approach to bringing the co-working space to Lebanon. While the typical central Indiana co-working space is proposed by a private developer, the city is taking the initiative to bring a space here.
“It is kind of a unique approach,” Bontrager said. “We are kind of jump starting the process by buying the building. But, we did this because there is a need in the community.”
The concept for the Lebanon space also unites the co-working space and makers’ space ideas into one. The space could house fledgling small businesses, could offer a work space for a craft-based business and much more.
LePage said the building offers the ability for plenty of customization. There are two floors and an attic space, for about 21,000 square feet. Inside spaces include the airy and bright showroom floor, rough concrete and brickwalled garage space and second-floor apartments that feature 1970s wood paneling, built-in cabinets and more relics from the past.
As former car dealership, the property sits on 1.8 acres and comes with ample lot parking and a covered parking area.
While the building needs much interior and exterior work, and the investment will be significant, LePage said there has been much interest in the space — from developers and from residents who need a work space.
“People are champing at the bit to operate it, and people are champing at the bit to get in here and work,” LePage said.
Once the developer is in place, LePage said the space is hoped to re-energize that part of downtown and add a good neighbor to the Lebanon Street corridor.