Renovation of the former Mitchell Tolle Gallery in Berea has begun, and so far, there have been no major surprises, according to Berea city officials.
Last week at a business meeting of the Berea Tourism Commission, Assistant Codes Administrator/Technical Advisor Brian Reed reported that construction crews have begun demolishing the ceiling of the interior. Interior walls are being removed, exterior painting and repair has proceeded, and most of the flooring on the first level has been removed, he reported. Electrical work has also started, Reed added. The facility at 633 Chestnut Street is located next to two other public performance/meeting facilities, the Chestnut Street Pavilion and the former Ford building.
The only unexpected development thus far, according to Reed, is that plans to remove two interior walls have been revised.
“I don’t think it’s really going to change the look of the project,” Reed said. “If you’re coming in the front door, going down the corridor, it’s the left corridor wall. That’s the only surprise we’ve had to date.”
Business and Tourism Development Director Donna Angel said the change presents tourism with a welcome opportunity.
“It’s actually a big benefit that it [the wall] is not coming out because it actually gives us gallery wall space for decorative paintings and so forth. So, it worked out just fine,” Angel said. “It will open up the gallery space a lot and still give us space for display items.”
The entire budget for the project, which is contracted through locally-owned GT Construction, is $600,000 with the goal of transforming the Tolle Gallery into a venue for private event/reception rentals, small conventions, seminars, board meetings, LearnShop classes, as well as an art gallery. When asked by Tourism Commissioner Bill West how much the contractor had drawn so far, Reed reported that approximately $11,000 was paid out for exterior repairs and painting.
During previous meetings, Angel reported the wishing well within the building will be retained, and there have been discussions of a project in which local artists will be invited to paint a shingle to be hung over the wishing well.
Meanwhile, tourism commissioner and restauranteur Rick Thomas has noted the city has an opportunity to recover some of its investment since some caterers pay venues as much as 20 percent of their proceeds for the right to cater an event. The facility will include a warming kitchen that can be used by caterers, and with a proposed revision in a local ordinance, caterers will be able to obtain a license to sell alcohol at the venue.
Work on framing the interior rooms of the Tolle Gallery expected to begin this week, Reed said.
The upstairs of the Tolle building will remain much the same, Angel has reported, with two offices and one room set aside for tourism media production. By law, the amount of foot traffic allowed to the second floor is limited since there are no elevators or ramps to accommodate people with mobility issues.
The project is expected to be completed by late winter or early spring.