GREENFIELD — It could host meetings, retreats — perhaps even small weddings.
A $200,000 project to demolish and replace the outbuilding in the Hoosier Poet’s backyard has city officials talking about the potential for a new event space in Greenfield.
The small facility known as ’Lizbeth Ann’s Kitchen, located directly behind the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum, provides about 500 square feet of space for visitors to the home to eat lunch or rest between tours.
At a cost of between $175,000 and $200,000, the project city parks department leaders propose would double the square footage, making the facility more accessible to people with disabilities and providing more bathrooms.
In addition, officials hope to attract groups seeking a small event venue, said Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department superintendent Ellen Kuker.
The proposed facility aims to solve several issues created by the age, inefficiency and condition of the current building, which was once a garage, officials said. It will expand the space and connect the building with the museum, solving accessibility issues with the back steps of the museum.
It is planned to look like a carriage house built in the same 1800s-era style as the museum, said museum director Stacey Poe.
“We hope to connect the two buildings to enhance the experience of an already wonderful tour,” Kuker said. “First and foremost, we want the experience for our guests to be top-notch. A by-product of the improvements is we will be creating a new venue space.”
The building currently houses one restroom and a space with six tables to hold about 25 people. The structure is not insulated and has to be closed down in the wintertime, Poe said — if the water stays on, the pipes will freeze. The current structure has no historical significance, Kuker told the parks board.
Hundreds of people, from school groups to curious passers-by, tour the home and grounds every year, Poe said. More than 20 tours have been scheduled through 2017, she said.
The city of Greenfield is expected to contribute about $50,000 toward the project, Kuker told the board; other funding sources have not been determined. Parks officials don’t know when the project will begin, as funding must be secured first, Kuker said.
Some social clubs and small parties have used the facility for meetings and events like baby showers in the past. Kuker said she expects more people will take advantage of the picturesque gardens behind the museum once the expanded facility is complete.
Replacing ’Lizbeth Ann’s Kitchen has been a part of the city’s master plan for four years, she said.
Local historian Joe Skvarenina heads the five-member fundraising committee for the project. He and his fellow members have begun applying for grants from local and regional organizations, including philanthropic clubs and nonprofits dedicated to historical preservation, he said.
Improving ‘Lizbeth Ann’s Kitchen can only help the museum, because it will provide better program space and attract rental contracts, he said.
“We want to make the Riley Home more functional and usable for the community,” he said.