RDA gets cheese center project update

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff


ARCHITECT MARK PFALLER (right) led members of the Redevelopment Authority on a tour of the 133 E. Mill St. building, which is being renovated into the Plymouth Cheese Counter and Dairy Heritage Center, including the basement area where original mid- 19th century timber beams and rock walls will be preserved as part of what will eventually be the “Kids Cheese Cave” area of the center. — Review photo by Emmitt B. Feldner ARCHITECT MARK PFALLER (right) led members of the Redevelopment Authority on a tour of the 133 E. Mill St. building, which is being renovated into the Plymouth Cheese Counter and Dairy Heritage Center, including the basement area where original mid- 19th century timber beams and rock walls will be preserved as part of what will eventually be the “Kids Cheese Cave” area of the center. — Review photo by Emmitt B. Feldner PLYMOUTH – It’s still a few months before it will be ready for the general public, but the Redevelopment Authority got a look at progress on the project at 133 E. Mill St. Thursday.

The once-vacant building is slated to become the Plymouth Cheese Counter and Dairy Heritage Center, with opening set for sometime this summer.

Architect Mark Pfaller led the RDA members on a tour of the building, including two apartments on the upper floor of the two-story building.

“The intent was to keep as much of the original as possible,” Pfaller said of the work both on the apartments and the store/museum that the building will house.

“The apartments are going to be very urban looking,” RDA Chair Lee Gentine said of the two 1,100- to 1,200-square foot two-bedroom apartments.

On the main floor will be the combination cheese counter and heritage center.

Pfaller showed the RDA members where the interactive computer monitors - that will provide hands-on information about the local cheese industry, dairy farming and even a selfie photo station with add-on cheese accoutrements - will be located.

The main floor will also include a lunch counter featuring a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches and other dairy-related items. There will be several merchandise displays, including one that will be located under a replica barn structure.

“The whole reason and rationale for the museum is the architectural and cheese heritage of our area,” Pfaller explained.

The tour finished in the basement, which in a later phase will become a Kids Cheese Cave, with more interactive displays and activities relating to cheese and dairy aimed at children.

Pfaller pointed out that the basement will be a prime area for maintaining the architectural history and integrity of the 19th-century building.

He explained that the building was originally a barn, built in the 1850s or 1860s. The original stone walls and log roof timbers are still in place, Pfaller pointed out, and are being retained and highlighted.

“You can’t see this any more,” he said of the exposed timbers and stone walls.

Pfaller said it appears the original barn was torn down at some point when the commercial building was constructed, but the basement retained those features of the original barn.

With work on schedule for a summer opening for the center, the RDA turned its attention to making ready for that.

Gentine and project consultant Randy Schwoerer – the former downtown manager – were authorized to conduct interviews and hire a manger for the center.

“We have 11 applicants to this point,” Schwoerer told the RDA. “We’re getting a lot better response than I anticipated.”

Gentine noted that details of the operation – such as hours, staffing and more – will have to be settled once the center is in operation.

“This has never been done in Plymouth before. We know it will evolve,” Gentine said of the center operations. “There are things we’re going to have to learn.”

“We should say, ‘pick up the reins you have in your hands and move forward with it.’ Let’s keep this thing in motion,” RDA member David Williams said in moving to give Gentine and Schwoerer the hiring authority. “They’ve got a good grasp of what we want here.”

City Administrator Brian Yerges reported that $1.075 million has been spent to date on the project, which has received about $1.95 million in total revenues to this point, with $2.5 million expected in total.

That amount included a historic preservation tax credit. Yerges said that credit is being purchased by a bank to provide working capital for the project, as the actual credit will not be approved until after the renovation is completed and certified by historic preservation officials.

Gentine said it is uncertain yet what the building’s financials will be once it is up and running, but based on conservative estimates, “We certainly hope to see some kind of breakeven in 24 months.”

As an indication of potential interest in the building, Gentine noted that there is already at least one bus tour to the center from outside the area scheduled for the spring of 2018.


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