Shown is a representation of what a remodeling of the Central Park Pavilion might look like. Rendering by Design Collaborative

A donor has pledged $2.5 million to remodel the Central Park Pavilion, Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer told the Parks and Recreation Board on Tuesday.

The donor’s name is not expected to be released until the board approves a letter of intent with the donor at its next meeting. At its Tuesday meeting, the Parks Board approved the move forward with the MOU.

The current estimated cost of the conversion is $3.1 million.

Before making the big announcement of the donation, Thallemer told the board he had brought them good news, but first wanted to share a story about the pavilion project.

In 2018, the Board approved design work to remodel the pavilion to attempt to accommodate Park’s offices, which were originally intended to be housed on the pavilion’s upper floor with an elevator and staircase. HVAC changes; opening the gazebo, maybe moving the kitchen to the side to open the wall to the lake and add windows; and increase the size of the meeting room.

“Back then in 2018 it wanted to beautify the exterior but most importantly add the offices and create a more open concept with a view and opening to the lake, back in 2018,” said Thallemer.

As the design evolved, Thallemer said he believed it was the architect’s recommendation that the offices be housed at the proposed maintenance facility at East Fort Wayne and Indiana streets due to the expense of housing the offices in the pavilion. That would save the city money, and the board has approved.

Construction of the maintenance and office building will begin in June, Thallemer said.

“That kind of stalled the Pavilion project. We didn’t need the office space and that was a priority for this project at the time,” said Thallemer.

He said they asked the architect for a rough idea of ​​what it would cost without the offices in the pavilion just to make the improvements the city had shown. The architect did, and in 2018 the estimate for the pavilion improvement was about $1.8 million. The pavilion improvement project was put on hold to focus on the maintenance and office building.

“But the project didn’t really die because we identified a potential donor who was interested in helping us with the Pavilion project. This pavilion is an important place in our community for community gatherings. We’ve seen that during the pandemic,” Thallemer said, noting that it was used for COVID testing and vaccinations, as well as the American Red Cross bloodmobile. The pavilion also hosts leisure and rental activities.

The importance of the pavilion to the city and some of the proposed improvements were discussed with the donor.

Further cost estimates were produced in 2020 as discussions with the donor continued. The project’s cost increased to $2.4 million during the pandemic.

“But we had drawings and updates, and that allowed us to continue those discussions with the donor,” Thallemer said.

Last fall, the discussions “got a little more serious,” he said. As construction costs would increase, the city wanted to be able to act and the Parks Authority approved the completion of the construction documentation with updated drawings and prices.

“That price was $3.17 million. That was a month ago,” Thallemer said. “It sounds like it has gone up a lot, and it has. This happens everywhere in public and private projects. I just heard about a local project that has doubled over the engineering estimate.”

Discussions with the donor continued, knowing full well that costs would continue to rise.

“I am pleased to announce that the city has received a $2.5 million funding commitment from a donor for this project,” Thallemer said, surprising the park board.

“So at this point, the city will be finalizing the final details of this donation and preparing a letter of intent. There will be expectations on both sides, but after securing this fund rest assured the current estimate is $3.1 million, we have committed $2.5 million specifically for this project.” he said.

When Thallemer submitted the letter of intent to the Parks Board, he said the donor would be identified then, if not sooner, but it was at the donor’s discretion. He asked permission from the Parks Board to develop the letter of intent with the donor.

“The idea here is that if you’re okay with that, now that you have the bid paperwork, this project can go out to bid and we can secure a price to get this project done sooner rather than later,” Thallemer said.

After the Parks Board completes the MOU, it must also be presented to the Board of Public Works and Safety to accept the donation.

Vice President of the Board Larry Ladd said the donation was “pretty impressive”.

Board member Michelle Boxell said, “That’s quite an achievement to reach that significant percentage.”

Thallemer said the city is very excited and the project will be a major improvement to the structure.

“It’s just an iconic, historic structure that we’re really going to get right,” he said.

Boxell asked how long the pavilion had been there. Parks Superintendent Larry Plummer said it was built in 1935.

“I realized it used to be an open shelter, and then it closed. I know we remodeled it in 1990, I think that was it. We had a bathroom fire that went into the main part of the building and it was then remodeled,” Plummer said.

Ladd said there is a strong emotional connection to the building in the community.

Ladd filed a motion to continue the MOU, and board member Jill Beehler filed the second motion. It was accepted unanimously.