Thursday, October 23, 2014

City panel votes to demolish Elkhart Armory

The city of Elkhart is expected to demolish the old Armory building on Main Street within weeks.
Posted on July 9, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 9, 2013 at 6:48 p.m.

ELKHART — The old Elkhart Armory will soon be nothing more than a memory.

The dilapidated, historic building’s fate was sealed Tuesday when the redevelopment commission voted to demolish the building on North Main Street just north of McDonald’s restaurant.

The vote came after the city exhausted efforts to find a private firm to rehabilitate the two-story structure.

Last month, the city provided a final 30-day grace period for two companies to provide additional information after they had submitted proposals to the city to redevelop the property.

Just a few weeks earlier, the city had rejected plans by both companies because both lacked specific financial details, according to Barkley Garrett, director of redevelopment.

One of the two companies, headed by David R. Snyder, submitted paperwork 10 minutes before the start of Tuesday’s meeting, but that was deemed to be too late by city officials.

Steven Eldridge, president of the commission, said the city was now acting on what they suspected might happen six or seven months ago.

Despite efforts to find a developer, city officials had also been lining up tentative plans to demolish the building.

The new phase in the property’s history may begin as soon as Monday when the board of public works is expected to vote to finalize plans with Indiana Earth, a company that was chosen among nine contractors to demolish the building.

Work to remove the building could begin within weeks, said Denny Correll, brownfield coordinator for the city.

The cost of demolition is expected to be around $134,000, Correll said.

The redevelopment commission will then seek bids to have the property redeveloped.

No timetable was announced for that phase of the project.

Garrett said the city has already been approached by one company that is interested and he expects the land could attract some competition.

The property abuts the downtown Riverwalk and is considered a prime location that could serve numerous purposes ranging from restaurants, to retail to office space to apartments.

Garrett said he’s content that the city went the extra mile in trying to save the building.

The building was first constructed in the late 1800s and expanded in the early 1900s.

It’s served as a grocery store, liquor store, and a roller rink, among other things, but the structure sustained severe damage in recent years.

The roof partially collapsed last winter and city officials cordoned off the west side of the building along Main Street for safety reasons this spring.

The city bought the property in December after it had been on the market for more than a year.

Officials believe it would have cost several hundred thousand dollars just to stabilize the building.

“Mayor (Dick) Moore was excellent in leading the charge in attempting to save the property, but when push came to shove, unfortunately, it was too far gone for developers to feel confident in investing the money that was needed,” Garrett said.

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