The former YMCA buiding in downtown Belleville is now home to an insurance claims company and -- soon -- another service to help create more businesses.
Kurt Artinger has moved his Replacement Services LLC into the 90-year-old building at 15 N. 1st St. It had housed the YMCA until 2006 and was initially built for the Belleville Turner group as a social and civic center.
Artinger's 42 employees now work in a space where a gymnasium had been. His company was founded in 2001 and had operated in Swansea. Replacement Services works with insurance companies across the country and provides software that helps appraise stolen goods.
Moving his company inside was the first phase; now Artinger plans to create what he calls a business accelerator. As opposed to business incubators, which help hatch aspiring entrepreneurial ventures, the accelerator would help existing small businesses grow by providing office space and other essential equipment and guidance.
"It's more than an incubator because it is more hands-on," Artinger said. "It's mentorship for entrepreneurs to get them to the next stage."
"My goal overall is if we can graduate 15 companies a year, in five years there could be 50 companies in downtown Belleville. My goal is to get it up and running and basically hand the keys over to an entity that can run it."
Last year, Artinger put together a proposal to take over and renovate the building, which had been vacant for the past eight years and fallen into disrepair. He bought the building for $1, received $334,000 in assistance from tax increment financing, and invested another $700,000 to renovate the property. The building's electrical system was updated and a new roof was installed. His business leases its office space.
Artinger also wanted to preserve the historic building, which features an exterior with art deco and gothic ornamentation.
"We're trying to keep the historic integrity of the building, whereever possible," he said. "We are trying to preserve the original case moldings and things of that nature."
Artinger has invited city leaders to a reception Friday evening to see his company's new office space.
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.