FONTANA — A unique new addition to downtown Fontana is nearly complete.
Construction crews hope to be finished by August with a two-story property being built at the former site of Novak’s Restaurant.
The building at 158 Fontana Boulevard will include a home decor and gift shop called Fontana Home, along with a boat dealership and apartments on the second floor.
Developer Kathie Perkins, who will own and operate Fontana Home, said she hopes to make her business a place for high-profile events such as book signings and interior design lessons.
Perkins said she envisions creating a “community center” of sorts.
“We will try to do things that are enriching,” she said. “We have a lot of ideas.”
The old Novak’s Restaurant has been demolished, and construction has been underway for months on the new 10,000-square-foot building.
Difficult winter and spring weather slowed progress somewhat, but crews led by Scherrer Construction Co. are reporting solid progress on the building effort in recent weeks.
Scherrer project manager Mark Kuzniewski said barring any unforeseen complications, the project should be done by August.
“We’re starting to pull ahead again — got our rhythm going,” Kuzniewski said. “It’s coming together well.”
The path to completing the project, however, has not been an easy one.
More than a year ago, Perkins and her husband, Wally Perkins, acquired both the Novak’s Restaurant building and the nearby Munson Ski & Marine building at 138 Fontana Boulevard.
The couple from suburban Chicago had designs on transforming downtown Fontana into a bigger draw for tourists and shoppers, while also bringing merchants together in a newly formed business association.
The concept ran into obstacles last summer when village officials raised questions about technical elements of the redevelopment.
After the Perkinses went back to the drawing board, they were able to overcome the village’s issues. But the project had undergone some significant changes.
Restaurant owner Pete Novak, who had planned to open a new eatery in the new building, moved down the block to try retrofitting the old Munson Ski & Marine building into a restaurant. Munson Ski & Marine, meanwhile, took over Novak’s space with a boat dealership showroom that will operate alongside Fontana Home.
Kathie Perkins said she is excited at how well things have fallen into place, and how the construction is progressing.
“I think it’s going to be beautiful,” she said.
Fontana village officials have been monitoring the project and have green-lighted the work.
“I think they’re really pleased that we are following through with what we said,” Perkins said.
The project is a departure for Fontana in many ways — not only with the combination of commercial and residential under one roof, but also with the size of the two-story building, and with the urban-style design.
At neighboring Posh Threads Consignment Boutique, store manager Ellen Dragonetti said the Fontana Home building is large and impressive. Dragonetti said she welcomes any new business that aims to bring more shoppers downtown.
Other than an always-present concern about parking, Dragonetti said she is happy to see the new development.
“You have to embrace change,” she said. “Change can be good.”
Perkins said she has reached out to other downtown business owners to begin building relations and to discuss possible cooperative efforts.
“I really want to have a sense of community,” she said.
Kuzniewski said the project is a bit of a challenge for construction crews, because they must be aware of codes and standards for both commercial and residential building.
He expressed satisfactions that crews are delivering the sort of high-impact development that the Perkinses envisioned.
“It’s going to look good,” he said. “It’s a little bit different design. But it still fits the character of the area.”