ELKHART — Several problematic buildings in Elkhart, including the former Conn Instruments, could stand to be removed, according to Elkhart city officials.

At Tuesday morning’s Board of Public Safety meeting, Vice Chairman Jean Mayes and Building Commissioner Jim Holtz discussed issues with the former Conn Instruments building at 1101 E. Beardsley Ave.

Mayes said the parking lot there is beginning to look like a forest, asking what will be done.

“We’re going to talk to legal and see where we’re at on demolition on that, and maybe just re-evaluate where we’re at on that property,” Holtz said. “Between that one and 131 S. Main, those are kind of our two priorities that are going to take a lot of evaluating from the standpoint of what do we do with them as a final solution.”

Holtz told the board on May 28 that 131 S. Main St. has extensive water damage, and that demolition may be required, though the Building & Code Enforcement Department is exploring all options. He said a decision could be made in the fall

At the subsequent City Council meeting on June 3, that message didn’t land well.

“We’re just now getting around to a timeline?” said Councilman Brian Thomas, R-2, claiming that the city has known about the damage for almost a year.

“That’s unacceptable,” he said.

Holtz, at Tuesday’s public safety meeting, said the situation at the Conn building is becoming “critical.”

“I think we got some estimates previously on that, and it was anywhere from $80,000 to $200,000 for demolition,” he said.

Brownfield assessment

Last week, Michiana Area Council of Governments announced receiving $600,000 in a regional Brownfield Assessment Coalition Grant awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Elkhart Mayor’s Office announced Tuesday that the city is looking to spend a portion of that money preparing to redevelop “the tax delinquent Conn Instruments property” and the former Federal Press site at 511 Division St.

Neese’s communications director, Courtney Bearsch, said the funding cannot be used for any demolition or environmental cleanup that may be necessary, but it can help to evaluate the property, with other funding sources used for the cleanup itself.

The funding from this grant can be used for additional environmental site assessment and investigation at these locations, she said.

Mayor Tim Neese, in a statement, said he was pleased the city received outside funds to make “our community safer, healthier and more attractive to development.” 

“As we develop the City’s first economic development plan, specifically working to resolve impediments to industrial growth in Elkhart, one of the ways we can do this is through the creation of shovel-ready sites. In a city with such strong manufacturing history, this often means environmental remediation,” Neese said.

Mayes, at the Board of Public Safety meeting, pointed to the same issue, saying ground contamination at Conn Instruments would have to be cleaned up. Holtz said he sees that as the biggest holdup for moving the process along at that site.

Separately, Holtz told the board that demolition bids will be awarded for 621 W. Marion St, 922 Concord Ave. and 319 E. Simonton St. at the next Board of Public Safety meeting.

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter @ReadRasmus

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