ELKHART — Bayer’s physical legacy in Elkhart is in its final hours, but while the massive former pharmaceutical campus will soon disappear, much of it is not going far away.
Most of it, in fact, will be buried on the property.
After decades of activity, almost all of the four-story structure and several other buildings have been transformed into huge piles of crushed concrete.
A majority of the estimated 70,000 tons of crushed concrete will be used as backfill for the massive basement and underground tunnels that connected some of the other Bayer buildings.
The rest will be trucked away and recycled, some of it for future road bed material.
Only a few small shreds of the last building — near the southeast corner of the Randolph Street site — will be cleared away within the next two weeks, officials said Friday during a news conference conducted by Feed The Children, the international nonprofit agency that briefly used the Bayer building as a distribution center.
Feed The Children moved its distribution operations to a new Elkhart location last year and has been working with the city to prepare the land for new development.
Representatives of the agency joined city officials and representatives of Jones Petrie Rafinski, Elkhart, and Homrich Inc., Carlton, Mich., for a tour of the grounds Friday.
In the past year, nearly 1 million square feet of office space has been demolished.
“It was a massive building where a lot of good things happened. There’s a lot of history and it’s bittersweet in a lot of ways,” said Gary Sloan, senior vice president of domestic operations and program development for Feed The Children. “But on the other hand, I think it will be a great thing for the citizens of Elkhart.”
Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president of Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County, sees the transition as a great opportunity for future development.
“This paves the way for new opportunities and new growth and clearly is a wonderful step forward for the new year,”Heiden-Guss said.
Sloan added: “It’s a great location. They’ll be some interest.”
More than a half dozen pieces of heavy machinery coordinated work at the site Friday.
A powerful jackhammer broke off large parts of a remaining wall. Another machine hauled it away where yet another machine pulverized the concrete, helping to separate the metal rebar. The concrete rubble was then crushed into several sizes of rock and fed onto a conveyor belt where it was sent to the top of another huge pile.
“It’s almost like a choreographed dance,” said Ben Ratliff, project manager for the contractor, Homrich. “We’ve got it down to a science.”
Once the site is cleared, about 535 truckloads of top soil will be spread across the site.
Some grading might occur early next year and grass seed will be planted in the spring.
Sloan said Feed The Children will work closely with representatives of the city and the county in hopes of finding a quality developer for the site.
Sloan said the agency hopes to help set the stage that brings a future employer to Elkhart that will provide good wages.
The Oklahoma-based charity paid $1 for the property in 2003. However, the group soon realized the operational costs of using the buildings — estimated to be about $1 million a year — were too much.
The group relocated to a site on Elkhart East Boulevard in 2011.
Elkhart is one of six distribution centers in the United States.