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One Center Street

VALPARAISO — The huge building at the west end of city limits has been many things since it was built around 1908: A cut glass factory, a desk manufacturer, a technical school and a business incubator.

Now 1150 Lincolnway is entering a new life.

Officially known as One Center Street for the street behind it, the building has had space for rent since the 1990s, when Bryant Mitol became owner. However, in the last two years, he took on two local partners — Walt Breitinger and a silent partner — and work has stepped up, with a plan to have the building ready for complete occupancy in about a year.

The Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission believes in the men’s vision, and last year it extended the Transportation Oriented District from downtown so the former Valparaiso Technical Institute would be eligible for a façade grant.

“It’s got a lot of potential,” George Smith said on March 3 when he and other commission members awarded a grant that will match half of renovation costs — up to $25,000.

The building’s improvements may affect the rest of the neighborhood because the Redevelopment Commission voted on April 11 to include Sandberg Service Center — across Yellowstone Road from One Center Street — as eligible for a grant and is considering extending the district farther.

“It is the feeling of the commission that (One Center Street) is part of our gateway. It is an entry way into the city,” Redevelopment Executive Director Stu Summers said.

Mitol, a technical institute alum, is also concerned about historical value. “I think it’s an integral part of Porter County and Valparaiso, and it’s a great building,” he said.

He believes Pitkin and Brooks of Chicago opened their Diamond Cut Glass factory in 1908, using a mixed architecture of steel beams and brick window lintels common during the changes in building in that era.

Chautauqua Furniture Company took over 15 years later, making student desks and educational materials, and the building became the technical institute in the 1940s.

The institute also trained soldiers in radar and other technology for World War II and some people who worked for NASA.

Mitol and the Valpo Tech Alumni Association tried to restart the school in the 1990s, when you could see through holes in the roof from the basement, but that ended in 1991.

It then became a business incubator, giving space to start-ups, but the economy couldn’t handle that after 9/11.

Currently, façade work is more than a third finished, with new windows replacing broken ones on the main floor, replace stairs and fire escape and tuckpointing.

There have also been problems with theft, such as the two brass signs from the tech school that were probably taken by scrappers.

Because all building owners are environmentalists, there are plans to make it solar powered through another business partner of Mitol’s. The goal is to show that old buildings can be energy efficient, he said.

Breitinger said they also want to show that old buildings can be preserved or recycled, as they are in Europe, because resources are getting more limited.

Besides Mitol’s business and an apartment tenant, One Center Street has another tenant that recently moved in, Studio This Is. The photo, design and film studio liked the building for its character and potential, Creative Director Jeremy Bustos said.

“We were looking for a blank canvas,” Bustos said. “It was more just the potential in the building.”

The 18-foot ceilings were perfect for a photography studio, and Mitol and partners have been very accommodating with how the business wanted to set up the space.

Mitol noted that space is adaptable for any needs because it’s an old factory.

“The building is unique in that there are no supporting walls,” he said. Someone could have a whole floor if they desired.

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Source: Post Tribune - A Chicago Sun Times Publication                                                                    By: James D Wolf Jr - Post Tribune Correspondent - April 22, 2012

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One Center Street 2013 By Gene Mellenthin 

YouTube Video

Updated - Jan 22, 2015