WEDC investment to help fund renovation of new social club

OSHKOSH, WI. JULY 30, 2020 – The City of Oshkosh is receiving a $250,000 state grant to help in the renovation and preservation of the former Gibson Auto Body into a unique gathering space in downtown Oshkosh.

The Community Development Investment (CDI) Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will support the preservation of the nearly 100-year-old former Gibson Auto Body Shop by converting it into the Gibson Social Club. The new development will be an event space for weddings, meetings, and other social gatherings. The project is expected to be complete next year.

“A vibrant blend of businesses is vital to a community’s overall economic success, which is why it is one of WEDC’s top priorities to support communities across the state and invest in improving their business districts,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “This project will not only preserve a piece of the city’s history by renovating a building that is 100 years old, but it will serve as a catalyst for future development and investment in the Oshkosh community.”

Purchased by Eric and Kristen Hoopman, the remodeling of the space will include the addition of a catering kitchen, bathrooms and three bars including one on a mezzanine level. The entire space will be renovated and will be available for large and small events. The new owners plan to highlight and preserve the buildings historical elements and beauty and will utilize reclaimed or salvaged materials in the process.

“With the support of WEDC and the City of Oshkosh, we are excited to bring this new adaptive reuse multi-purpose venue to the heart of downtown Oshkosh next year,” said local business owner, Eric Hoopman. “We’ve been admirers of this historic space for a long time now and are thrilled to be able to help preserve it in a way where the community can enjoy it for decades to come.”

“We are excited that the Hoopmans are demonstrating their commitment to downtown Oshkosh with the renovation of the former Gibson Auto Body,” said Mark Rohloff, Oshkosh city manager. “This is truly a transformation of a building that has sat idle in our Downtown Business Improvement District for many years. The addition of the Gibson Social Club will bring a new spirit into the night life of Downtown Oshkosh while honoring the history of a classic Oshkosh landmark.”

“The Gibson Auto Body has been a staple of Main Street Oshkosh for almost 100 years,” said Senator Dan Feyen. “This grant will help to ensure the unique architecture and charm of this building are preserved for generations.”

The project has the potential to be a catalyst for the success of the downtown neighborhood and the Business Improvement District. The city is looking at this project as a way to transform a traditionally industrial downtown toward a community focused urban core. When the venue opens, it’s expected to create 12 full time jobs with a total of 20 people employed.

WEDC’s CDI Grant Program supports community development and redevelopment efforts, primarily in downtown areas. The matching grants are awarded based on the ability of applicants to demonstrate the economic impact of the proposed project, including public and private partnership development, financial need and use of sustainable downtown development practices.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, WEDC has awarded more than $30 million in CDI Grants to over 100 communities for projects expected to generate more than $500 million in capital investments statewide.