partners buy, to renovate
former Meese building on riverfront
Mill Resort to be residential,
retail with a restaurant
(July 2007) Combined with the ongoing development
of Madisons Bicentennial Park, both ends of the citys riverfront
will soon become a gathering place for residents and visitors alike
for all sorts of events or just to walk, shop and eat following the
June 29 sale of the former Meese building.
by Don Ward
left, partners Bob Przewlocki
and David Landau, and project
manager Tony Novelli pose at the
riverfront, where their new
The nearly 90,000-square-foot building, which once housed
an industrial cotton mill, is considered the largest single structure
in the downtown and comprises nearly six acres right on the riverfront.
Two Chicago-area historic preservationists purchased the building from
owner Jerry Fuhs of French Lick, Ind., and plan to turn the massive
structure into a mixed-use development.
The plan, to be conducted in two phases, will feature retail and restaurant
space on the first floor and condominiums upstairs. Their plans also
include green space outside and educational classrooms inside for promoting
historic preservation, said Bob Przewlocki, who has 35 years experience
in historic preservation projects.
We are very excited about this project, and we plan to work closely
with the city and the community to develop something everyone can be
proud of, he said. We also want to design our project in
line with the other develops going on along the riverfront. It will
be a true community effort.
Madison Mayor Al Huntington was among the group of local officials who
met with the potential investors in April. He had been championing the
idea of a mini-conference center for downtown in hopes that the eventual
buyer of the property would be preservation-minded.
We are very happy to have a developer of this caliber has taken
over such an important project for the downtown and our riverfront,
Madison-based Realtor David Jenkins represented the buyers and Scott
Lynch represented the seller, Fuhs. Jenkins said the deal took five
hours to complete.
I think this will be great for Madison, and Im very exited
for my company because they are planning to do some great things and
I hope to be a part of it, Jenkins said.
Przewlocki, 56, of St. Charles, Ill., and partner David Landau, 42,
of Michigan City, Ind., met only 11/2 years ago when Landau was searching
the Internet for a company to take on large preservation-renovation
projects. He found Przewlocki, and together the two visited Madison
city officials and local historic preservation officials in April and
closed on the property in late June.
by Don Ward
former industrial site will be
preserved and converted into condos.
They plan to immediately begin the task of cleaning up
the site and begin the permit process for the project. They want to
preserve the architecture of the original building and develop gardens
and lots of green space around it for residents and visitors
who will come there, Przewlocki said. They also plan to draw on the
expertise of local Historic Madison Inc. staff and those from the Historic
Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, he said.
His company, Preservation Trades Inc., already has conducted a historic
structural survey of the building, which revealed that the building
is structurally sound.
It was a masonry building that was built to sustain heavy loads
to accommodate the people and equipment, Przewlocki said. In
fact, it was gauged to withstand 150 pounds per square foot. Most public
assembly buildings are gauged at 100 pounds per square foot.
He said some areas sustained water damage before the roof was repaired,
but it has original, beautiful tongue-and-groove hardwood floors
that we will preserve.
He said the foundation is in excellent shape and consists of hand-carved
limestone sitting on a large bed of bedrock. There are two-foot-thick
brick walls at the base. You cant get much sounder than
The two men have hired Landaus father, an architect, to design
the plans for the project, which will be called River Mill Resort.
It will include timber-framed, industrial loft-type condos in various
sizes, from 1,200 to possibly 2,500 square feet. We can make them
any size, depending on what interest we receive, Przewlocki said.
We want to make it a destination on the river for the community
to enjoy, because after we are gone, it will remain there for a long
Przewlocki grew up in Chicago and studied environmental sciences at
the University of Illinois and Boston College. He said he became interested
in historic preservation while living in Boston. His company, based
in Wayne, Ill., has completed many projects throughout the Midwest.
The companys website describes itself as a full service
design-build company specializing in traditional craftsmanship with
a sensitivity for the natural and built environments. Our goal is to
implement the latest methodologies in evaluating, planning, improving
and rebuilding historic structures as established by The Secretary of
make it a destination on
the river for
The Meese building is perhaps the largest single structure
along the riverfront and sits only a few blocks from the Ohio River
bridge. According to documents on file at the Madison-Jefferson County
Public Library, it was originally built to house the Eagle Cotton Mills
Co., organized in November 1883 after consolidating with Banner Mills
of Pittsburgh. Madison-based Rankin & White were the contractors.
The $215,000 building housed 15,000 spindles, 275 looms, 150 cards and
other cotton appliances to manufacture sheetings, seamless bags, twines,
carpet and other warps, hosiery yarn and batting, etc. A three-story
picker house was constructed in the adjacent building. An engine room
with two Corliss engines and a boiler room with six boilers were each
housed in separate adjacent buildings. The company employed 500 workers.
The factory was illuminated by 312 incandescent points and heated by
steam. The fire safety system included sufficient hoses and automatic
sprinkler system. Railroad tracks at one time ran through the property
for shipping out finished products.
In later years, the building housed the Meese Manufacturing Co., the
name that is still painted on the outer walls.
Fuhs, who owns and has renovated historic properties in French Lick,
Ind., bought the Meese building in April 2001 from Buddy Waller soon
after buying and renovating the Hillside Inn at a November 1999 bankruptcy
auction. He sold the 30-room hotel in December 2003.
Waller had used the former Meese site for storing equipment for his
business, Wallers Meter Inc. Fuhs originally intended to renovate
the building with a plan similar to the one now in motion, But with
the announcement of the new casino coming to French Lick, he put his
Madison plans on hold to concentrate on other projects closer to home.
He listed the property for sale at $650,000.
In June, Fuhs and his wife, Carolyn, launched a new project
a $23 million indoor waterpark and hotel complex now
being constructed in downtown French Lick directly across from the recently
opened French Lick Casino. When finished in fall 2008, Valley of the
Springs Resort will feature a 156-room hotel and a 40,000-square-foot
indoor waterpark called Big Splash Island.
The Fuhs currently own and operate several other Indiana hospitality
properties, including Beechwood Inn and Wilstem Guest Ranch in French
Lick; Santas Lodge in Santa Claus; Gasthof Amish Village in Montgomery
and Baymont Inn & Suites in Dale. Fuhs also is a partner in a project
to renovate the Old Jasper Cabinet Co., located in downtown Jasper,
into a hotel-convention center type facility that stands to benefit
from a larger redevelopment effort going on in the area.
The couple resides in French Lick, and Jerry Fuhs owns a multi-state
tax filing business in Jasper.
To learn more about the River Mill Resort project,
Back to July 2007 Articles.