Local entrepreneurs to transform former Carnegie Library into entertainment venue

Published 1:38 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2022

NILES — A historic Niles building will soon be home to an entertainment venue filled with laughter.

The Niles City Council voted unanimously to authorize the sale of the historic Carnegie Library building, 204 N. 4th St., for $100 to Sheila and Karl Koebel of S&K Cornerstone LLC during Monday’s meeting at the City of Niles Fire Department. 

The Koebels, along with partner Sean Shank, submitted a proposal to purchase the property for $100 and anticipate investing approximately $300,000 to create a Main Street-level entertainment venue and a Fourth Street-level lounge. 

“I am super thrilled that this is on the agenda,” said council member Jessica Nelson. “I cannot wait to see this open and successful. It is going to be an amazing addition to our downtown.”

City Administrator Ric Huff said the selling price of the building was so low because of the extensive repairs the buyers would have to make. 

The group hopes to open in September 2023 after renovations, which will begin with outdoor landscaping and the construction of a handicap-accessible ramp.

“(We will start with) landscape, lighting, just making nice, positive changes outside. Then we get to start on the inside,” Sheila said. “The three of us would be busy.”

“The bushes are overgrown; they’re covering up the building,” Karl said. “A lot of people I’ve talked to have asked ‘where’s the library at?’ It’s between the bushes and trees, you can’t really see it (from the street). We want it to stand out a little bit more and keep the patina of the building.”

Because of the historic nature of the building, a stipulation in the purchase agreement was included stating that if the Koebels are unable to open the business after 48 months of ownership, the building will revert back to city ownership.

The Koebels have long been active in the community via food events, fundraisers and the like, preferring to be involved in the background. Last year, Sheila stepped into the light and joined forces with Mayor Nick Shelton to create the Greater Niles Sights & Lights Decorating Contest.

“I’m looking forward to what you guys do with that building,” Shelton said. “I think it’s going to be outstanding. There aren’t better people to run it, we’re happy to have you.”

Niles’ Carnegie Library building opened in 1904 through a grant from industrialist Andrew Carnegie, matched with community funds. The program required that communities requesting the grant demonstrate a need for a library in their town. They also had to provide land for the building and set aside annual funds for the library’s operations. Carnegie provided $15,000 for the building construction. The Federation of Women’s Clubs, private donors and the city raised funds for furnishing and staff. 

After the Niles District Library was built in 1963, the historic building housed the Chamber of Commerce for roughly 40 years until the chamber moved its offices to City Hall. 

Downtown Development Authority Director Lisa Croteau said a downtown liquor license alone would cost $20,000, but added the building is eligible for tax credits and other programs that could offset costs.

Shank said he has been in the comedy industry for roughly 30 years and has known the Koebels for years. He believes in their dream to make Niles a comedy destination for the area.

“Comedy clubs are destination venues,” he said. “Brick and mortar comedy clubs have a draw that, depending on the comic, is like an hour and a half to three hours away. What that brings to this town is tourists that have never been to Niles… it spreads word of mouth, brings in tourists and it brings in not just local traffic, but you get traffic from local communities and beyond.”