EVANSVILLE

Downtown Evansville’s smile has been missing a tooth for a while, Dave Olsen of local investment firm Grove Partners said Tuesday.

By the end of this year, that missing tooth—site of the former Night Owl Food and Spirits—will be filled by The Centennial, a three-story building with seven apartment units and two businesses.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. announced Tuesday it will give the city a $250,000 grant to help with construction. The announcement drew several state and local dignitaries, including Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

The project will cost $1.3 million and will add $450,000 to the tax base, said Jason Sergeant, community development director for the city.

The Night Owl burned down in October 2016, leaving 19 E. Main St. empty for more than a year.

The city applied for the grant because the site has challenges, Sergeant said, including constrained space, limited parking and surrounding brick structures.

Foot traffic in the area has decreased significantly since the Night Owl burned down, he said.

Greg Ardisson, owner of the Night Owl, tried for nearly a year to devise a plan to rebuild at his original location, with no success, he said in a previous story in The Gazette.

The new Night Owl will be built at the corner of Main Street and Union Road, Olsen said. It is expected to open in July, a month later than planned.

Ardisson sold the original location to Evansville-based Grove Partners, which will facilitate The Centennial construction.

The city will use the grant to reimburse Grove Partners as needed up to $250,000, Sergeant said. TIF financing also was provided for the project.

Kleefisch said Tuesday that the state believes developments such as The Centennial will attract millennials to Wisconsin.

The state recently rolled out a $1 million advertising campaign to draw Chicago-area millennials to the Badger State.

Young professionals value density and walkability, Kleefisch said. The Centennial will make downtown Evansville attractive to those who can help fill the 90,000 to 100,000 vacant jobs in Wisconsin.

State Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, said 19 E. Main St. is close to her heart. She held her wedding reception there when it was the Legion Lodge nearly 50 years ago.

Ringhand said she has supported economic growth since she was on the city council 20 years ago. She said she is glad to see a project that will eliminate a blighted area and support local business.

State Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, Mayor Bill Hurtley and Melissa Destree from Destree Architecture and Design also attended Tuesday’s announcement.

The Centennial’s name is based on the property’s first owner, the Evansville Mercantile Association, Olsen said. The association opened The Evansville Grange general store in 1874 and expanded into 19 E. Main St. in 1876, America’s centennial year.

Construction on The Centennial is expected to be finished by the end of this year, Olsen said. Tenants can move in at the beginning of 2019.

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