In the waning shadow of Gabe’s Tower, there is Gabe’s Shopping Center at 18th and Triplett streets.
But unlike the blighted 13-story structure bearing original owner Gabe Fiorella’s name, Gabe’s Shopping Center is receiving some attention to its exterior that will go a long way to improving its outside appearance.
The new facade is being added by Lanham Brothers General Contractors at a cost of $894,000.
It’s being funded through federal dollars filtered through the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA) program called Triplett Twist.
Abby Shelton, the city's community development director, said Gabe’s Shopping Center is the last official project under Triplett Twist, which is scheduled to end in June 2020. Including the shopping center, the city will have spent $2.6 million in federal money within the Triplett Twist.
“In the consolidated plan of the NRSA, there were two big projects included in that writing, and one of them was some kind of renovation to or addressing Gabe’s Tower and doing a facade renovation of Gabe’s Shopping Center. So (Gabe’s Shopping Center) was kind of a target and if we could make it happen, we would jump on the opportunity.”
Adam Patterson purchased the shopping center from Johnny Goodman in April 2017 for $1.2 million.
Patterson said he intended to update the property prior to finding out about the Triplett Twist program.
“It’s awesome that we can take federal grant money to make our area better, because that’s what it’s for,” Patterson said. “It’s so that more, stronger businesses can come in … and that’s what creates a healthy economy.”
Fiorella built the center in 1959 on what had been Miller Field, a minor league baseball stadium.
Patterson said he would like to see the stadium and Gabe's Tower remembered in some way.
"I suggested, if they take (Gabe's Tower) down, they paint a big mural on the side of my building of what it used to look like," Patterson said. "...They could also add Miller's Field and the growth over time. We don't want to forget where we came from, but we're also heading toward our future, too."
When it’s done, the new facade will wrap around the entire shopping center.
Golden’s Hometown Diner and Pool Hall is one of the businesses within Gabe’s Shopping Center being affected by the construction.
Golden’s employees Jami Rust and Jean Kralik said business has slowed in the two weeks since the facade work began.
However, the women said they welcome improvements being made to the outside, and they should benefit them in the long run.
“It’s going to look a whole lot better, and it’s going to bring in more business for all the shops that are here,” Rust said.
And for Kralik, addressing Gabe’s Tower would also enhance the shopping center and the surrounding neighborhood.
“If they can just do something with Gabe's,” Kralik said. “I hate to see it come down, but if they can’t restore it, they have to do something with it. It can’t just sit there like that.”
After years of trying to purchase Gabe’s Tower, the city took ownership of it earlier this month from Bob Zimmerman.
Shelton said the city is now considering its options with the 55-year-old structure, which has been vacant since 2005.
“At least we have control of it and something is going to happen,” Shelton said. “We just don’t know what yet.”
Don Wilkins, firstname.lastname@example.org, 270-691-7299