Work has  begun to convert the old Elks Lodge building into apartments. The lodge was heavily damaged by fire in August of 2006. (Staff photo by Brett Eppley/beppley@madisoncourier.com)
Work has begun to convert the old Elks Lodge building into apartments. The lodge was heavily damaged by fire in August of 2006. (Staff photo by Brett Eppley/beppley@madisoncourier.com)
Work to rehabilitate the former Elks Lodge has begun as cleanup crews clear the way for construction and a new life for the building.

The sale of the property to Larry and Valecia Crisafulli from the Cornerstone Society was announced last month.

A fire heavily damaged the building in August of 2006.

Larry Crisafulli said cleanup work began last week with asbestos removal and a spray treatment for histoplasmosis – a disease caused by fungus found in bird droppings – for the safety of workers. Since then, a small crew including Crisafulli have removed a large dumpster worth of debris from the building. Volunteers from the Jefferson County Habitat for Humanity have been invited to take what they would like from the building, including items found in the basement kitchen such as stainless steel sinks and ceramic plates, which can still be found stacked in the dumbwaiter at the rear of the building.

Crisafulli also said that he is looking for anyone that may be interested in metal that can be salvaged or recycled.

Crisafulli is looking for construction to begin sometime in November. Engineers will visit the site next week as the process moves forward. Once construction can begin, hopes are that the project will be completed in two years’ time.

The building’s exterior will be the likely starting point when construction begins.

Windows will all have to be framed out and then measured individually, as they’re each slightly off in size from the others. The roof, which was never completed with flashing or caps by former owners, also will need to be replaced as parts of the current structure have become water-logged.

Other parts of the exterior, including additional side and rear entrances also will need to be addressed.

“That’s what I’m hoping to do first,” Crisafulli said of the exterior, “get the outside buttoned up so it doesn’t look like a post-fire scene anymore.”

Inside the building, a split staircase and handrails leads to the upper and lower floors. Currently, the Crisafullis envision four single-bedroom apartments on the main floor and two apartments in the lower, with the potential for a small efficiency unit for an apartment manager.

While plans are to reuse materials and salvage as much as they can, the wood planks and beams of the main floor will likely be removed as fire damage and deterioration, while not widespread, is severe in some spots.

It can all be a tad overwhelming as new items to be checked off the list seem to pop up with every visit, Crisafulli said, but he said he enjoys the process and moves forward with absolute confidence.

“We are very confident in the downtown residential market,” Valecia Crisafulli said, “both residential and commercial.

“That’s why these spaces are important.”

As with the couple’s other building on West Main Street, she said, it’s important to make all of the building’s space usable for tenants.

“It’s the best possible investment,” she said.