New interest in CC building

Potential buyer to submit business plan, related info to city committee

by Tom Coombe
A potential buyer has emerged for the city’s long-vacant Community Center building.
Council members voted Tuesday night to set up a subcommittee to review “a business plan and related information” submitted by the unidentified party.
According to minutes of the city’s historic preservation commission, which recommended the plan go to the council for review, as many as four potential developers have recently showed interest in the three-story, nearly 30,000 square foot structure.
One developer has made several visits to the building and has progressed to the point of advancing a still confidential business plan.
It will be reviewed by city clerk-treasurer Harold Langowski, attorney Kelly Klun and council members Heidi Omerza and Paul Kess.
City officials and area history buffs have wrestled with the fate and future of the Community Center, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, for nearly a decade.
It has been vacant since 2014, when the city closed the building after moving the library to a new facility across the street from City Hall.
The one-time community hub seemed to have new life in 2018, when the K America Foundation bought the building for $30,000, outlined plans for up to $3 million in renovations and hoped to make Ely a destination for Korean adoptees and their families.
Those plans fizzled and ownership reverted back to the city last year.
The city has since put the building back on the market for $79,000, and during the winter city officials reported numerous calls of interest, after the building was featured on a popular website and on Facebook.
About 85 years old, the Community Center once served as an Ely hotspot, housing not only the library and offices but a kitchen, cafeteria and auditorium that were used for numerous community events - including dances, weddings and dinners.
Efforts to re-purpose the building have stalled and the building needs extensive renovations and repairs, estimated at $2.75 million in a 2014 study.
The city commissioned a reuse study that can be found on the city’s website, and ideas have run the gamut, from using the building for its original purposes to perhaps turning it into rental housing, a hotel or community garden.