ISU Foundation/bookstore building latest sign of change in downtown TH

When Lu Meis started working at his family's downtown Terre Haute business more than 60 years ago, it was one of eight department stores that lined Wabash Ave.

On Friday, Meis took part in the grand opening of the first new retail building to be constructed downtown in more than 30 years.

The Meis Store was one of the last major retailers to leave downtown, but Friday's ribbon-cutting at Barnes & Noble/Indiana State University College Booksellers is the latest indication that the fortunes of Terre Haute's central business district are changing, Meis said.

"I personally have always missed downtown and it's a greater satisfaction to see it going uphill right now," said Meis, now a member of the board of directors of Vermilion Development Corp., which partnered with the ISU Foundation to build the two-story structure that houses the bookstore and foundation offices.

"This city has been blessed with lots of growth over the last few years and the momentum continues to build. Projects like this will show anyone that we can do anything in this community if we put our mind to it. This is just a stepping stone because this will invite additional investment," said Mayor Duke Bennett.

As with other recent downtown projects, including two new hotels and the construction of a new home for the Children's Museum of Terre Haute, speaker after speaker at Friday's ribbon-cutting said the Barnes & Noble/ISU Foundation building could not have happened without the kind of partnerships that led to Terre Haute's selection in 2010 as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Community of the Year.

"What I see is the energy, persistence and determination of a community that is not only about downtown. The entire community is on the upswing," said Dave Cocagne, president and CEO of Danville, Ill.-based Vermilion Development.

"This development project is a great investment in the foundation, in the university and in the city of Terre Haute. It is a true testament to the growth and vision of all of the entities involved," said Curt Wilkinson, president of the ISU Foundation board.

ISU President Dan Bradley has been a strong advocate for strengthening the relationship between the university and the city of Terre Haute, said Norm Lowery, secretary of the ISU Board of Trustees.

"This building is a major step in achieving that goal and in the transformation of our city," Lowery said.

As an example of the significance of the building and the extensive cooperation necessary to make it happen, Bradley noted that he was the seventh person to speak at the ribbon-cutting.

"We may be going uphill, Lu, but we are accelerating," Bradley said. "We know we're accelerating because we have more projects in line."

University projects include renovation of the Terre Haute Federal Building to house 1,200 students and 200 employees in the Donald W. Scott College of Business beginning in fall 2012 and continued revitalization of student housing, including the possibility of new construction in the downtown area, Bradley said.

Chris Peterson, director of stores for Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, who 22 years ago helped with the transition of the university bookstore, said the new store represents the latest advancement in a decades-long partnership.

"From the very beginning, we knew this would be a successful relationship," he said. "Why? Because we are both committed to giving ISU the best bookstore possible."

Thompson Thrift, the Terre Haute real estate and construction company co-owned by ISU alumni John Thompson and Paul Thrift, was general contractor on the $5 million project. The 32,000-square-foot building houses offices and a conference room for the ISU Foundation and its partners, Leadership Wabash Valley and Terre Haute Rex Baseball.

The foundation part of the building will feature ongoing displays of ISU memorabilia and features an outdoor plaza for community events. The foundation is also partnering with Wabash Valley Art Spaces, Inc. to bring a prominent piece of public art to the community which will be completed in October.

The new Barnes & Noble college superstore, which occupies about two-thirds of the building, features an expanded line of general reading, as well as textbooks and e-books, and a line of clothing and other ISU-themed products that is "about three times larger" than the old store in the university's student union building, according to store manager Derek Holbert. The new store is also home to a Barnes & Noble Café, serving Starbucks coffee.

Photos: - The new Barnes & Noble/Indiana State University College Bookstore, which celebrated its grand opening April 15, includes an expanded selection of clothing and other ISU-themed items. (ISU/Tony Campbell) - Lu Meis, a member of Vermillion Development Corp.'s board of directors, spoke about downtown Terre Haute's revival during the April 15 grand opening of the Barnes & Noble/Indiana State University College Bookstore. The Meis family's department store was a Wabash Ave. fixture when downtown Terre Haute was the primary shopping destination for the Wabash Valley. (ISU/Tony Campbell) - The new home of the Indiana State University Foundation at 30 N. Fifth St. looks out over downtown Terre Haute. The building housing the foundation's new offices was dedicated April 15 in conjunction with the grand opening of a new Barnes & Noble/ISU College Bookstore, located in the same building. (ISU/Tony Campbell) - Sycamore leaves are incorporated into an interior stair rail of the Indiana State University Foundation's new offices, which were dedicated April 15 in conjunction with the grand opening of a Barnes & Noble/ISU College Bookstore housed in the same building. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Contact: Kim Bloch, assistant director of communications, Indiana State University Foundation, 812-514-8486 or; Derek Holbert, store manager, Barnes & Noble/Indiana State University College Booksellers, 812-232-2665 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or