HURON — While some people undertake one major building restoration and move forward, Jeff Pownell takes a different route. He has now begun three restoration projects in downtown Huron, bringing back life to three storefronts that once sat dormant.
It’s not hard to hear the passion for both downtown Huron and history in Pownell’s voice early on in a conversation.
“Downtown Huron’s full of opportunities just waiting for someone to jump on them,” Pownell stated as he opened discussion with The Plainsman.
“The research and the history is something I find exciting,” Pownell continued. “How can I take the original intent and purpose of the building and make it economically viable for today?”
Pownell’s original project was POP ice cream shop, in the building that once housed Habicht & Habicht Department Store at 274 Dakota Ave. S. He and wife Yendy Castillo utilized Deadwood Fund Grants to restore what was once an elaborate store.
“The quality of the Habichts building far exceeded anything being built in South Dakota at that time,” Pownell noted, explaining that concrete and marble features in the building were beyond typical construction at that time. “The Habichts building was built with electric conduits, something common in modern construction, but in the 1930s, it was certainly one of the first commercial buildings with that feature.”
The building is now listed on the National Register or Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior, the only commercial building in downtown Huron listed on the register.
The former Huron Hotel, center, with the frontage work completed.
After the multi-year process to renovate and eventually open POP, the Pownells moved to 145 Dakota Ave. S., a former hotel in Huron that originally was built in 1909 as a hotel and cafe and operated for many years as Huron Hotel.
Jeff explained that the frontage work on the former hotel building was made possible through the Greater Huron Development Corporation (GHDC) facade grant program. However, once that work was done, work has stalled progress on the second floor/residential portion of the project.
“Originally these were 17 individual hotel rooms. Each of those rooms did not have an individual bath,” explained Pownell. “The challenge is: how do you take 17 non-modern rooms that don’t meet the standards of expectation today and turn it into four livable residential applications that would meet the standards of what people want without losing the character of that original building?”
He mentioned the central hallway upstairs as a primary reason behind keeping the “original” feel in the residential space.
However, Pownell stated that the focus on the hotel property was to finish the outside of the building and make it attractive by restoring the facade, the glass, and the doors on the street side, the items he focused on through the GHDC grant.
So, what is a motivated restorer to do when he’s stalled on one project?
The most recent project of the Pownells is restoring the former Lyric Theatre then retail space that originally was Brown’s Shoe Fit, though many will remember it most recently hosting the Champs Sports branch of Osborn’s Clothing store at 328 Dakota Ave. S. The building was originally built in the 1920s.
“It was built by F.C.W. Kuehn, the same architect that did the Habicht’s building, so I knew the quality would be good,” Pownell said. “On the interior of the building, I had a very good idea of what was there versus what was originally there, so it was easy to start on the interior.”
Pownell focused on the interior of the property on the main level, also mentioning that the interior could be brought into publicly viable most quickly. Now that the main level retail is filled, he and his wife can spend more time working on rehabbing the apartment above the retail space and preparing for the next step in the restoration of that space, the frontage work.
The interior at 328 Dakota Ave. S., now Billy Bob’s Treasures. The wall on the right hosts multiple small business that have small shops within the store.
For right now, the work on the interior of that location has allowed multiple businesses in town to have a new home in downtown Huron. Billy Bob’s Treasure Chest, owned and operated by Dennis Streyle, has established a home base in the store front.
Streyle has also used the space to give multiple small business an opportunity for downtown retail space. He has subleased multiple spots within the store on the south wall for small businesses that may not otherwise have the inventory to warrant a downtown space all their own.
As part of the intention to renew some of the history of the store front at that location, Pownell is now reviewing work from ISG out of Sioux Falls, who was hired by GHDC to review downtown businesses for business owners and offer ideas for improvements on the building that could beautify the building.
GHDC CEO/President Ted Haeder discussed the ISG assessments as being something that has pushed improvements and could continue to drive even more downtown improvement.
“The assessments we have finishing up right now, I think we’re going to see more demand for the program,” Haeder mentioned. “We’ve done about two dozen building assessments now.”
Pownell walked through a tour of his latest project and showed original blueprints for the Lyric Theatre with the passion typical from him whenever he discusses downtown Huron or restoring history.
As he reviews the options from ISG, he’ll make choices what to do to add character and life to another downtown Huron building.