Cook promises Old Centrum work will be done by year-end

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Bill Cook decided to make Old Centrum his next big project after attending a private recital in the former church sanctuary last summer.

Cook and his wife Gayle were among a group of about 10 people invited to hear Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra musicians Geoff Lapin and Zach DePue, along with philanthropist and pianist Marianne Tobias, perform—and show off the building's acoustics.

"I thought this was too good to pass up as a historic preservation," Cook said Tuesday. "There's so many things you can do with this place."

Cook announced Tuesday that he will fund and manage the renovation of the former Central Avenue United Methodist Church, turning it into a place for concerts, cultural events and weddings. Cook, the founder of Bloomington medical-equipment maker Cook Group Inc., is also a renowned preservationist. The Cooks and their son Carl Cook have pledged at least $7 million toward the Old Centrum renovation.

Their exclusive architect George Ridgway and construction manager Pritchett Brothers—the same team that renovated the West Baden Springs Hotel—are already working on the project. Cook said Tuesday that it will be finished by year-end.

Before stepping to the podium, he pointed out the sound quality of the wood-paneled atrium, which features a stage and second-floor balcony leading to former Sunday school classrooms. The room will become Cook Hall, and the former sanctuary will be named the Cook Grand Theatre.

The Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana hopes to move its headquarters from the Central Canal downtown into a 1922 addition to the building, but first it has to raise $2 million to $3 million. For 20 years, the foundation has had its Indianapolis offices along the Central Canal in the 1879 Charles J. Kuhn House and a modern addition.

IBJ first reported the planned restoration and possible foundation relocation in February.

Also Tuesday, the foundation announced that it will change its name to Indiana Landmarks, and Old Centrum will be called the Indiana Landmarks Center. Cook has been involved with the organization since 1976. "I wanted them to have a higher visibility in Indianapolis and actually show what you can do with historic preservation," he said.

Lapin, a cellist who lives in the Old Northside neighborhood, said he helped organize the recital along with Indiana Landmarks President Marsh Davis. The informal gathering was dubbed "a night in the Hoosier tropics" because of the lack of air-conditioning. Lapin said they made sure to include a performance by a brass quartet because Cook is fond of brass music.

Old Centrum, built in 1892, has been closed since 2008, when its former owner, the Old Centrum Foundation, could no longer keep up with the necessary maintenance. Former Indiana first lady Judy O'Bannon, a member of the former church and Old Centrum Foundation board member, attended Tuesday's announcement, as did several people who grew up in the church.

Carol Roe, who was a member of the church for 25 years, publicly thanked Cook for backing the restoration. "Mr. Cook, I didn't know who you were, but from the bottom of my heart, I thank you," she said.

Founded in 1960, Indiana Landmarks is the largest private statewide preservation group in the United States. It has a staff of 42 in 10 offices around the state.


  • Neighborhood boost
    The Cooks' generosity will not only preserve a landmark, it will strengthen the Old Northside and nearby neighborhoods, which by extension is good for all of Indianapolis.
  • Very exciting!
    We are truly lucky to have such kind folks like the Cook Family, living in Indiana who support historic preservation, we are blessed. The old Centrum/Indiana Landmarks Center is an incredible building and I look forward to enjoying the space for many years to come. This is a GREAT day in Indy!

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I think the poster was being sarcastic and only posting or making fun of what is usually posted on here about anything being built in BR or d'town for that matter.

  2. Great news IRL fans: TURBO the IMS sanctioned movie about slugs running the Indy 500 has caught the Securities and Exchange Commission because Dreamworks had to take a $132MILLION write down...because the movie was such a flop. See, the Indy/IMS magic soiled another pair of drawers. Bwahahahahahaha! How's CARTOWN doing? HAHAHAHA...Indy is for losers.

  3. So disappointed in WIBC. This is the last straw to lose a good local morning program. I used to be able to rely on WIBC to give me good local information, news, weather and traffic on my 45 minute commute.Two incidents when I needed local, accurate information regarding severe weather were the first signs I could not now rely on WIBC. I work weekend 12 hour nights for a downtown hospital. This past winter when we had the worst snowfall in my 50 years of life, I came home on a Sunday morning, went to sleep (because I was to go back in Sunday night for another 12 hour shift), and woke up around 1 p.m. to a house with no electricity. I keep an old battery powered radio around and turned on WIBC to see what was going on with the winter storm and the roads and the power outage. Sigh. Only policital stuff. Not even a break in to update on the winter storm warning. The second weather incident occurred when I was driving home during a severe thunderstorm a few months ago. I had already gotten a call from my husband that a tornado warning was just southwest of where I had been. I turned to WIBC to find out what direction the storm was headed so I could figure out a route home, only to find Rush on the air, and again, no breaking away from this stupidity to give me information. Thank God for my phone, which gave me the warning that I was driving in an area where a tornado was seen. Thanks for nothing WIBC. Good luck to you, Steve! We need more of you and not the politics of hatred that WIBC wants to shove at us. Good thing I have Satellite radio.

  4. I read the retail roundup article and tried Burritos and Beers tonight. I'm glad I did, for the food was great. Fresh authentic Mexican food. Great seasoning on the carne asada. A must try!!! Thanks for sharing.

  5. John, unfortunately CTRWD wants to put the tank(s) right next to a nature preserve and at the southern entrance to Carmel off of Keystone. Not exactly the kind of message you want to send to residents and visitors (come see our tanks as you enter our city and we build stuff in nature preserves...