Sunday, July 13, 2014

Elkhart officials consider Armory cleanup effort

The city¿s redevelopment commission agreed Monday to spend up to $10,100 to remove debris from the recently-purchased Armory building on North Main Street.
Posted on Jan. 9, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — The city’s redevelopment commission agreed Monday to spend up to $10,100 to remove debris from the recently purchased Armory building on North Main Street.

But no action will happen until after officials hear from representatives of a historic preservation group on whether the building might be worth saving.

City officials hope to market the building to possible investors in the next few months, and Barkley Garrett, director of economic development for the city, said cleaning up the large amount of debris inside the building prior to any tours would be beneficial in helping showcase the property.

The board agreed to a provision that prohibits the clean up from happening before officials hear from Indiana Landmarks Association next month on what the organization believes should be done with the property.

Board president Steve Eldridge said input from Indiana Landmarks would be “fairly critical” as the city tries to decide the building’s future.

City councilman David Henke attended the Monday meeting and offered a cautious tone about putting any more city money into the project than is necessary and reminded the board of the building’s poor condition, including structural and mold problems.

Garrett told the board that if the city ultimately chooses to demolish the property, part of that project would include removal of debris.

Money for the cleanup will come from the city’s downtown Tax Increment Finance fund.

The city acquired the 106-year-old building and adjoining property when it purchased two parking lots for about $40,000 late last month. In exchange for buying the parking lots, the owner donated the dilapidated two-story structure.

Realizing the city is open to criticism for acquiring the building, officials sought an agreement in which they could point out that they did not pay for the building. The parking lots, based on several appraisals, are considered worth the approximate $40,000 price tag, Garrett said when the sale was announced.

The city hopes to quickly find an investor who would be willing to renovate the building. If not, officials are prepared to demolish the structure and then make it available to the private sector.

The building sits on tract of property along the downtown RiverWalk and is considered a prime spot for development.

The building has been empty for several years. Previous owners used it for a grocery store and liquor stores, among other things. At one time, the building had a skating rink on the second floor.

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