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Work at the Darwin Martin House complex is expected to spread out from the main building in the approaching months, with groundbreaking for a visitors center likely by fall, leaders of the $25 million restoration project said Thursday.

They accepted a $2 million grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation to support the design and construction of the center.

Once the state environmental review process is completed, "three things will happen fairly quickly," predicted John C. Courtin, executive director of the Martin House Restoration Corp.:

Deteriorated below-ground portions of the Martin House foundation will be stabilized.

The renovation of 143 Jewett Parkway will start. A wrap-around porch and dormers, which were original features, will be added to the Victorian house adjoining Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark prairie-style mansion.

Though 143 Jewett was not part of the Martin House complex, which it actually predates, it is considered an integral part of the project.

"What we'll be doing with that property is technically not a historic restoration, but will bring back its 1900 appearance," Courtin said. The house will be used for offices.

Digging will begin around three apartment houses bisecting the compound to see if anything remains of the pergola and conservatory foundations. Both structures -- striking elements of Wright's grand design -- were razed long ago.

The visitors center would be built on the footprint of the westernmost of the apartment buildings -- all of which will eventually be leveled -- near Woodward Avenue.

Though the restoration group aims to start construction in the fall, it first must secure approval from the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. An important step in that direction will be the release of an environmental impact study, expected soon.

Among other concerns, the document will discuss how to minimize the effect of increased automobile and pedestrian traffic on the Parkside neighborhood.

The Oishei grant brings project funding to $18 million, or more than 70 percent of the projected total.

Though the Martin House will continue to drum up support, it has enough money in the bank to fund "years of work," said Howard Zemsky, incoming president of the restoration group.

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