Redevelopment commission votes to demolish Elkhart Armory - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Redevelopment commission votes to demolish Elkhart Armory

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It's been a piece of downtown Elkhart for more than a hundred years.

Soon, it will just be a memory.

The Elkhart Army was built in late 1800's and an addition came in 1911.

Over the past hundred years, it's been used for a number of things, like a skating rink and grocery store, but in recent years, the building has fallen into disrepair.

The Elkhart Redevelopment Commission has spent months looking for a developer to renovate the city's historic armory.  Now, that search has ended, but no renovation will take place. 

The Commission voted Tuesday to demolish the old Elkhart armory.

"I think it's a big shame that they would have to tear it down," says Elaine Earnhart of Elkhart.

Earnhart works at Hopman Jewelers just a block away from the armory. She says the building has been there her whole life and she has fond memories from its heyday.

"When my sister was a teenager, they used to have dances there and it's been lots of different businesses and I think it's an historic landmark," she says.

Earnhart wishes the building wasn't being torn down. She hoped it could have been restored.

"It seems like they could have put some kind of museum, historical something inside the building, you know? Fix it up," says Earnhart.

The Commission offered developers a chance to buy the building for only $1 and fix it up as long as their plans were strong enough.

Two companies submitted proposals back in May, but the commission postponed any decision to give them more time to "solidify" the plans. 

Those plans were rejected because the city didn't find them strong enough.

A last minute adjustment to one of the those proposals was presented ten minutes before the Commission meeting Tuesday. But it was too late, the Commission decided there was nothing left to do but tear it down.

"It is bittersweet. We see this as yet another building unfortunately that is going away in the community," says Elkhart Director of Economic Development, Barkley Garrett.

The building is in pretty bad shape. The roof has partially caved in and part of Main Street in front has been closed.

The building will soon be leveled, and city leaders hope it will serve a new purpose.

"We'll get a clean piece of property and start the marketing efforts to see what developers can envision as a new property there," says Garrett.

Still Earnhart says it's a piece of history she hopes could have been preserved for future generations.

"It's a beautiful building and you know, it'll be greatly missed," she says.

Not everyone thinks the building should stay.

"This building has been falling down for ten years. It has now actually become a hazard. Sometimes buildings just can't be saved...There just is not a viable use for this in today's economy," says FOX28 Facebook friend, Bill Hutkins,

Kenneth Smith says, "Cool looking building but save the money and tear it down."

Garrett says the building will be destroyed in a matter of weeks for $134,000.

Garrett also says there has already been interest in the property after the building comes down.

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