GOSHEN — Police arrested three 15-year-old boys on preliminary charges of arson and burglary in connection to a fire that severely damaged the former Goshen Inn.
According to a press release from the Goshen Police Department, the teens, all Goshen residents, face arson and burglary charges on the same property, at 1375 Lincolnway East. One juvenile also faces vandalism charges for graffiti damage on other properties in Goshen, according to the press release.
Goshen police forwarded the case to the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office. The teens were booked in the Juvenile Detention Center pending a hearing scheduled Monday.
The fire department was dispatched at about 8:02 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12, to the former Goshen Inn after someone reported seeing smoke. Twenty firefighters labored for more than 45 minutes to bring the fire under control.
The next day officials determined the fire was intentionally set.
A restaurant located in the east side of the building known as Crackers Lounge and The Blue Room suffered extensive damage, but the fire did not go through the roof.
Though unused for a number of years, the building has been at the center of criminal activity investigations.
In October 2011, then-owner Kiran Patel was found murdered in the hotel which he was working to renovate.
The hotel has been vacant since Patel’s murder, but police are often called to the property on reports of suspicious activity and criminal behavior, said Goshen police chief Wade Branson in a February 2013 meeting with the Elkhart County commissioners.
While those arrested face charges of arson and burglary, the building remains and may stay for some time.
The property’s current owners have until the end of next month to pay off back taxes and penalties on the property, which was left off a county property auction in February at the city’s request. If the owners can cover those costs, they will retain control of the property.
If they can’t, however, the property will be turned over to the city.
Mayor Allan Kauffman said in the event of the city taking ownership, the process of handing control over to Goshen would likely be finalized around the beginning of next year. The Redevelopment Commission would then likely solicit requests for proposals for the property sometime after that finalization.
The Commission could either select one of the proposals or reject them. If proposals are rejected, they could simply demolish the building and try to sell the property.
Branson noted that if the city takes control of the property, the police department will take a look at the building to figure out a way to increase its security.
But while the property is still privately owned there isn’t much else GPD can do about the building besides continue to patrol the area hoping to discourage illegal activity.
Still, vacancy of a building always poses an issue for police, as their status leaves them vulnerable to continued problems.
“Vacant buildings just scream ‘Do something to me,’” Branson said.