Originally published in The (Columbus, Ind.) Republic, Dec. 23, 2001

By Andy Proffet
aproffet@therepublic.com

HOPE — A stream of water cascades down the exposed brick wall in what was once the Hope School gymnasium.

In classrooms on the floor below, paint hangs in strips, peeling from the tin ceilings.

Built in 1906, the center section of the building that houses Hope Community Center is in such disrepair that it would cost more to renovate it than to tear it down.

Center director Julie Glick said a feasibility study done by Columbus architectural firm Paris/Bingham Partnership shows demolition of the building’s center section and renovation of its two newer wings would cost just over $2.5 million.

To renovate the 1906 section alone would cost more than $3 million, Glick said.

The plan set forth by architect Jim Paris would call for demolition of the center section, which would be replaced by a parking lot.

“We really need the parking,” Glick said.

A few parking spaces are available on the building’s south side off Mill Street.

The east wing, which houses offices for the Community Center and several other agencies, would be renovated.

And the west wing would be renovated and expanded.

Donations help project start

Through donations, part of the east wing already has been renovated.

Four of the six former classrooms in the east section have been painted and received new floors and ceilings.

Head Start, Hope Senior Center, Hope Food Bank and an after-school program through Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. are using those rooms.

Meanwhile, the Community Center’s office is still awaiting a new floor and ceiling.

“We get the new stuff last,” Glick laughed.

Other renovations to the east wing include a new roof — but even that is a stopgap measure.

“Over the years, they’ve built roof on top of roof on top of roof on top of roof,” Glick said. “We need a completely new one.”

Hope Chamber of Commerce President Jim Kemp said the project would “certainly be a nice asset to the community.”

But, “My concern is how do we cash-flow it?” he said. “Can we find the private and public monies to fund it?”

While noting the chamber is behind the project, Kemp wonders if the $2.5 million price tag is too steep when measured against the number of people who will use the center.

Work-release inmates perform

Almost all of the work done so far in the east section has been done by prisoners on work release from Bartholomew County Jail, Glick said.

“I can’t say enough about the work they’ve done,” she said. “We’ve been really lucky to get them.”

Among the prisoners who have helped in the renovation are a plumber and a roofer.

Glick said the renovation would have been impossible without their talents.

Plans for the west wing call for a second floor to be built.

One of the features of the second floor would be a 1/10-mile indoor walking track.

Glick said it would be the longest indoor track in the area.

The design would make the second floor larger than the first floor, so the track would not be above any offices or other rooms.

“You wouldn’t believe the noise that can filter down from one of those tracks,” Glick said.

The second floor would also house workout and weight rooms, plus classrooms for dance classes.

Building on to the first floor would add a room for wedding receptions or other events, plus offices and a conference room.

Glick said another feature of the proposed design would keep groups using one section of the building from entering other sections.

The plan also calls for protecting the gymnasium floor, which is still in “great shape,” Glick said.

“There’s not a dead spot in that floor,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Glick admits she’s concerned about how the community will react to the plan to destroy one of the oldest buildings in town.

“But this is an urgent project, because it’s been neglected for so long,” she said.