Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Armory building sits vacant on Main Street in downtown Elkhart Saturday, January 28, 2012. ¬ (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard) (AP)
Three groups interested in Armory building
Posted on April 3, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 3, 2013 at 11:38 a.m.

ELKHART — Don’t look for any wrecking ball near the Armory building just yet.

Three entities have stepped up and shown an interest in renovating the 100-plus year-old building on Main Street in Elkhart.

The groups submitted letters of interest to the city by the March 29 deadline and officials are now reviewing information to determine if they appear to be legitimately prepared to undertake what everyone agrees would be a massive renovation project.

Barkley Garrett, director of economic development for the city, declined to identify the interested parties, but described them as “serious” about their plans.

The renewed interest means a tentative plan to demolish the building is temporarily on the back burner.

A few weeks ago, Garrett said he had strong doubts whether a group would step forward with a concrete plan, especially after part of the building’s roof began to collapse.

Heavy snowfall added to the roof’s collapse and part of the top of the western wall facing North Main Street appears unstable.

The property is located north of the McDonalds restaurant and along the Elkhart River at 200 N. Main St.

The city has moved swiftly to prepare for demolition because of concerns about the building’s structural condition, but wanted to give developers one more chance to step forward after the building was acquired Dec. 31.

Publicity and networking with groups interested in renovating historic buildings appear to have sparked interest, Garrett said. Seven or eight groups toured the building earlier this year.

“It’s definitely encouraging, considering the tight time frame we were working under,” Garrett said.

Garrett said if the city determines one of the three to be legitimate developer, the redevelopment commission intends to sell the property for $1 and would possibly invest up to $175,000 — the estimated cost of demolition — to help the project.

If officials determine that none of the groups are prepared to legitimately renovate the property, the city is ready to begin demolition within a matter of weeks.

Legal advertising needed for the bidding of the demolition project will be published later this week and again later this month. The city board of works is expected to open bids on the demolition on May 7.

A final decision on the building’s future is expected one week later when the city redevelopment commission meets on May 14 and is expected to make a decision on the bigs to renovate the building.

“I’m hopeful we’ll have a very clear understanding by that point,” Garrett said.

If the city would choose to demolish, the next step after it is razed would involve seeking bids for the land to be redeveloped. That would be done by the redevelopment commission.