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Old Main

Old Main’ is becoming new space for tech company; but history will not be lost

When I walked out of the Old Main Library building for the last time almost a year ago, I was so happy.

Mind you, I had worked for more than five years on the second floor of that old building where I never once saw the light of day.

I figured I wouldn’t miss the place at all. And I haven’t.

The excitement of moving into a brand-new library was almost more than I could handle! But I quickly got used to my office and its two windows with so much natural light that I got through the winter without the slightest case of S.A.D.

Little did I know, when I worked in the old place, that I actually was working in a room that used to be part of the roof of the original Carnegie building!

But I found out that’s just what it was when I popped over to “Old Main,” as we employees affectionately call it, last week.

The building was purchased by Support Companies, LLC in 2015, and the tech support company took possession of the building on Dec. 29, 2015, said Melinda Kruder, the company’s vice president.

“That night, after we poured champagne on the building to christen it, we poked holes in the drywall covering the columns on the main floor to see if there was anything cool underneath,” she said.

They didn’t find anything cool that night, but soon enough, after scraping away six layers of carpet, tile and plywood from the floors, they hit pay dirt: the original hardwood floor from the Carnegie library that opened in 1904.

“We got all excited over that,” Kruder said. “If you follow the outline of the wood floor, you can see the original footprint of the old Carnegie building.”

Once all of the circa-1969 improvements to the building were stripped away, Kruder said, “we could start figuring out what we wanted to do.” Kruder noted that 54,000 pounds of steel were removed from the building, mostly in the form of shelving.

The main floor is where 120 cubicles will be built for the firm’s mostly-millennial employees, who now work in the Meridian Business Park behind Fox Valley Mall, Kruder said. (The 20-year-old company has been at that location for seven years.)

Moving downtown was an idea that Kruder and President Ron Janusz liked, but Kruder can’t say she really liked the looks of Old Main when Invest Aurora President and CEO David Hulseberg showed them around. “It seemed so dark because of the long, skinny windows and all the shelving that blocked the light,” Kruder said. “But now, sunlight pours in.”

She also likes that fact that employees will be able to walk to several restaurants for lunch. “Now, they have to get in the car and drive somewhere to go out to lunch,” she said. “Here, they will get to try some new places.” (I was quick to tell her about “Taco Mondays” at Taqueria el Tio across Benton Street from the new library.)

The company’s new headquarters will house its 24-hour primary call center, training and product labs, IT server operations and administrative offices.

Kruder said they have decided to leave the circulation desk on the Main Floor. She is not exactly sure what purpose it will serve, but she does not want the history of the building to be lost.

The exposed brick wall at the back of the Main Floor also is a keeper, and much of the office space will be left with an industrial look and feel. The cubicles will fill much of the open space on the main floor. Bathrooms will be added, as will a conference room and break room. Janusz’s and Kruder’s offices will be in the old computer lab on the east side of the main floor.

“We should be in here by May 15, give or take a few days,” Kruder said.

After touring what will become the Support Companies’ new space, Kruder showed me around the second floor, where I used to work. You could have knocked me over with a paperback book. The “CA (Closed Access)” room where my desk had been no longer had desks or shelves – or walls. Kruder showed me the evidence that the room used to be a roof – including the roofing tar that still clings to some of the bricks.

Plans for the room include building a staircase up to a new rooftop deck.

Kruder reports that although they found layers and layers of floor and ceiling tile in the demolition, it all has come back clean of asbestos. And the building, she says, is sturdy.

As we toured the old lower level that housed the Young People’s Department, Janusz pointed out huge beams that have been exposed in the old mail room. “This building was wildly overbuilt,” he said. “Maybe they were planning to put another floor on at some point.”

Although it seems ironic to put a tech company into a building that is more than 100 years old, Kruder and Janusz see it as the perfect place. They hope others will see it as perfect for their businesses: they plan to rent the top floor out to others who share their vision.

Since taking possession of the building a mere three months ago, Kruder said, they have worked in Old Main day and night.

“We are always either working on it or thinking about it,” Kruder said.

Support Companies is planning to have an open house for the community to tour the building once it’s finished. I will keep you posted about that in this column.

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