'A lot of people have emotional ties': Turner Hall renovation is monumental task

News-DemocratAugust 22, 2013 

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Kurt Artinger understands the monumental task he has taken on in redeveloping the old Turner Hall building in downtown Belleville.

"A lot of people have emotional ties to that building," he said. "I do, too. My kids had birthday parties there, I swam there as a kid and I played basketball there."

He not only intends to protect the architectural integrity of the building and its art deco features, he wants to make it a thriving part of the neighborhood while helping downtown grow.

"We hope we can be a little bit of a catalyst to help grow the downtown area," he said.

Artinger officially closed on the building last Friday and he says the wheels are in motion to start renovation.

"Right now the architect is doing preliminary plans and we'll be viewing those on Friday," he said. "The asbestos people are touring and will be getting together their final bids. We have to get Illinois approval on that. The roofing guys are getting their materials to get started."

To help the community share in the project, a Facebook page called "Turner Hall Restoration," will have updates on construction progress, he said. The page currently has some before pictures.

Artinger, who comes from a long line of Belleville jewelers, once had his own store in Carlyle Plaza in Belleville but now is chief executive officer of Replacement Services LLC, a company that deals with lost and stolen jewelry claims.

He put together a proposal to take over and renovate the building which had been vacant since the YMCA moved in 2006. He proposed spending $500,000 of his own money on the building and asked the city of Belleville for tax increment financing money and some sales tax abatement for construction materials.

When all was said and done, he received $334,000 in assistance but will be bringing 40 employees to the downtown location, with more to come as the company grows, he said.

Artinger said his company, now based in Swansea, has outgrown three locations since it began.

"When I started looking for space I was wide open," he said. "I could have gone to a new building, but I figured there was this historic space and it would be great for our people to be working in downtown. It seems like it would be a fun place to work in an area with a lot going on with the Chili Cookoff and all the festivals."

After the initial restoration is done, he hopes to work on some storefront space on the southeast corner of the building that can be leased.

He also has plans for a business incubator, an area where fledgling businesses can share services to keep down costs and receive help from mentors who share their experience.

"If we can help start-up companies, maybe they can graduate and lease space downtown," he said.

Artinger said he has done a lot of homework before diving into this venture. There will be no sinking, only swimming coming up, he said.

"I've probably renovated eight or 10 properties in Belleville. I have a lot of experience," he said. "I've used a lot of my contractors before. We sat with city engineers on this. We had the fire department come in to tell us what they expected of us. You always have to expect a few surprises, but hopefully not a lot."

Have a column idea? Call Wally at 239-2506 or 800-642-3878; or email: wspiers@bnd.com

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