County Hopes to Buy Vacant Younkers Building

The Door County Facilities & Parks Committee adjourned its Jan. 18 meeting to take a tour of the vacant Younkers building at 56 N. Fourth Ave., which it hopes to purchase for archiving material from the Door County Museum right next door.

Several other county board supervisors not on the committee joined the tour, including Linda Wait, who serves on the Museum Committee and first suggested the idea of buying the Younkers building to Facilities & Parks Chair Dan Austad about six months ago.

Austad said the museum has tall stacks of documents and historic photographs that “in my opinion are being damped to death.”

“You only get one shot in your generation to buy a building next to a building you already have,” Austad said during the meeting.

In 2011 the county looked at adding 6,000 square feet to the museum, at a cost of approximately $2.2 million. The county placed $500,000 into a fund to one day deal with museum archiving. County Administrator Ken Pabich said about $40,000 of that was spent on a museum study, and the rest could be used to update the building.

Wayne Spritka, head of the Facilities & Parks Department, had previously taken a walk through the building with the realtor to get an idea of what the county might be getting itself into should it acquire the 59-year-old, 22,000-square-foot building.

Spritka said the roof was extensively patched in 2017. He reported that a roofer gave him an estimate of $200,000 to redo the entire roof. Two heating and cooling units on the roof appear to be in good working order, and there are 10 other gas-fired units that hang from the ceiling in the back storage areas. He said part of the existing fire-extinguishing system is antiquated and would have to be updated at a cost of $25,000.

Other updates would be required as well, depending on how the county decides to use the space, but first its offer of $500,000 must be accepted.

At the meeting, Corporation Counsel Grant Thomas said, “We have not received a formal acceptance to our offer,” and he went on to say he received an inkling that the offer falls short of what owner S&B Detrick Limited Partnership wants for the building.

Thomas added that no other entity is showing an interest in purchasing the building, which makes him “cautiously optimistic it will all work.”

County Administrator Ken Pabich said in addition to using the building to house museum archives, the public library is also running into space needs.

Austad said the county recently acquired the Door County Advocate  newspapers dating back to 1868, and having this space would make that treasure trove more accessible to the public.

“It would be a great buy for the county,” he said.

At the Jan. 22 county board meeting, the board unanimously approved the plan to purchase the building, but Grant Thomas reiterated that there are “many moving parts” to the deal, including lawyers, bankruptcy court and two different realtors.

Asked if there are any other plans for the building besides archiving, Austad said, “We can do other things with the building. I can guarantee we’re not just going to put up a warehouse. There will be something better than that.”