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Downtown Howard Lake gets a new look with building renovation
Monday, Feb. 18, 2013

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

HOWARD LAKE, MN – Three separate buildings in Howard Lake have been fused together after a major renovation project which has taken place during the last several months, drawing a lot of attention from community members.

“It was so fun to see people (during the project),” said Gerry Smith of Hearts and Hands Home Improvement. “We had daily inspections from townspeople.”

Before Feb. 8, the buildings were covered in a plastic tent to allow construction to take place in the cold weather, which drew people’s curiosity, Smith said.

“Old-timers” in Howard Lake will remember one of the buildings on the 600 block of Eighth Avenue as Roger Munson’s first insurance office, said Smith.

Another of the buildings is a small building behind the former insurance office, and the third building is the old telephone office, Smith said.

Mike Thoennes, DDS, of Distinctive Dental Services, is the owner of the three buildings.

“Dr. Mike is very community-oriented, and thought it was time to upgrade the look of the building,” Smith said.

This is the third major project Smith has completed for Thoennes, and he noted that the dentist is always very conscious of “what this is going to do to improve our town,” he said.

As far as Smith can figure, the buildings are about 65 to 75 years old, but were built well, of “tremendous construction,” and stable, with only one crack in all three buildings, Smith noted.

However, Thoennes wanted to solve problems with leaky roofs, and fix an issue of drainage from the roof that accumulates on the sidewalk behind the buildings, Smith said.

Two of the roofs were concrete slab roofs, and one was a gable-style roof, Smith said.

He turned to Littfin Lumber of Winsted to help design a new roof that would go over the old roofs of all three buildings.

Because each building has its own set of footings, Smith worked with the building inspector to figure out how to tie the footings together to make sure they rise and fall at the same time as the ground shifts during freeze and thaw.

Smith noted that Howard Lake City Council Member Al Munson was a daily inspector for the project, and gave him information about the footings, as well.

The footings were tied together using what is called “pinning,” Smith said.

Pinning is where steel rods are driven through the footings to lock them together, he added.

“It took quite a bit of work to tie the buildings together,” Smith said.

The project was built “green,” with everything being ecologically sound, and extreme insulation of the roof and footings, Smith noted.

Being community-oriented, Thoennes wanted Smith to use local subcontractors to complete work on the building.

Holly Insulation of Cokato completed the insulation work; Pauly’s Plumbing of Winsted did the plumbing work; Diers Electric of Howard Lake completed the electrical work; and Glass Plus installed the commercial entry doors.

Inside the building, the lobby area will have a bench in front of a large picture window, and additional closets add plenty of storage space which was lacking before, Smith said.

Yet to be completed are the siding and gutters, which will be installed by Lakeside Construction.

The gutters will go all the way around the front of the building, connecting to a drainpipe in the back that will then go over a few buildings to Eighth Street, Smith said.

It is hoped that this will eliminate the parking lot water problems, and eventually, the buildings housing Crow River Tax and Charles Paschke’s law office will be connected to the drain pipe, Smith said.

A third phase planned for the building, which involves remodeling the inside by demolishing part of one of the previous exterior walls to create a more open space.

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