BY MOLLY BRUSH
Like a lot of people, Loren Wood, a native of Danville, Illinois, originally came to Bloomington to attend Indiana University, where he earned degrees in secondary education and math. But it was during his summers off, while working construction jobs, that he found his true passion.
That’s why, in 2010, after a decade of teaching, he founded Loren Wood Builders. Originally, his focus was on residential construction. “From the outset, we distinguished ourselves from other builders by doing some fairly contemporary homes,” he says.
In time, Wood was asked to do commercial jobs. Initially, commercial work didn’t appeal to him, but one project changed his mind—the opportunity to transform the 100-year-old McDoel Baptist Church on South Rogers Street into a new climbing facility for Hoosier Heights. Wood, 41, is an avid climber and met his wife, Lindsay, at Hoosier Heights. They now have three children—Roux, 7, Georgia, 5, and Sadie, 2.
The Hoosier Heights project “helped highlight how interesting and unique commercial work can be,” Wood says. “It’s really neat to work on a commercial space that you know is going to get a lot of traffic.”
Wood and his team also converted an 1880’s-era carriage house, the former Bloomingfoods off East Kirkwood, into Osteria Rago, an Italian restaurant owned by Gregg Rago and Susan Bright, owners of Nick’s English Hut. “Taking an old place that’s been neglected and seeing it revitalized is pretty exciting,” Wood says. Recently, the Wood team also completely redid Scholars Inn restaurant on North College, which has been reborn as Scholars KEEP.
Another Loren Wood project re-created the decommissioned fire station on South Rogers Street into a permanent home for the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation, and last year the company built its first tiny home, measuring just 20 feet by 8 feet, with 160 square feet of living space.
The team’s latest project has it moving in a new direction—building an entire neighborhood. Located just north of the southeast branch of the Monroe County YMCA, Bloomington Cohousing, the state’s first cohousing community, will include 26 individually owned homes sharing common lawn and garden areas, as well as a common house and a log cabin with guest apartments.
“I think it’s going to be an interesting addition to Bloomington,” Wood says. “We’re really excited to be a part of that, not just from a construction standpoint, but from a community-building standpoint.”