Dillinger museum plans sent back to drawing board by contractor's change in reuse plans



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CROWN POINT, Indiana — A project that started with a bang of sledge hammers on the walls of the old Lake County Courthouse has reverted to the sounds of silence since the November demolition work was completed.

The planned move of the John Dillinger Museum from the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority facility in Hammond to the historic courthouse hit a snag when Group Delphi presented the plans for the space, said Speros Batistatos, SSCVA president and CEO.

"It was not what we expected," Batistatos told The (Munster) Times (http://bit.ly/1xVdQo3 ). "We wanted them to replace some things, but not everything. We wanted something like a version 2.0. Instead, they threw out the whole first version and started from scratch.

"That's not what I remember of our conversation with them. They are back to the drawing board, and we expect to see this week where they are."

Batistatos said the goal was to "reuse and repurpose" the existing display features while upgrading the technology and adding some new things. Despite the misunderstanding and the delay, he expects the museum to be substantially complete or complete in time for the planned March 3 opening, which coincides with the 81st anniversary of Dillinger's escape from the Crown Point jail.

"We've hit a bump in the road, but that's the nature of the business," he said. "March 3 is important for the anniversary, and getting in at the start of the travel season is important. The space is ready to be built out. Group Delphi is a first class organization, and I'm confident in their work. The SSCVA is determined that we will have something ready to go on that anniversary.

"We are still committed to the Lake Court House Foundation. This is a slight design delay. We weren't happy with the design. They were not using enough of the assets we already spent a lot of money on. We are trying to be fiscally responsible."

Foundation Board President Martha Wheeler said, "We're confident it will be what we want it to be, and we're glad we took the extra time to get the perfect plan. I think the museum was a superb museum. It did not glorify the Dillinger group, but it was more like crime does not pay and all the exhibits were headed in the right direction.

"Delphi is very good at working with historic buildings," Wheeler said. "For the past few weeks, I've been getting kind of disturbed over it because the space is kind of empty and there's nothing going on.

"It didn't bother us over the holidays. We had Santa and we got the big crowds, and it worked for the businesses that are there. I think our patience will pay off with a better product as a result. I'm glad Speros stuck to his guns."


Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com

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