ELKHART – It’s been in the works for years.
Now, demolition work has finally started on a huge vacant factory on Elkhart’s north side.
In recent years, the complex started to fall apart becoming a safety concern.
Then, there was a fire.
Neighbors say the demolition is an answer to their prayers.
“This is the day, and we are finally here, and we are finally excited about,” said Kristen Senne, who lives by the old Walter Piano building and is with the North Riverside Neighborhood Association.
Senne’s group has been keeping an eye on the Walter Building property for several years.
“We started making calls, several neighbors, including myself, have been calling the city for a number of years about it,” Senne said. “The factory, as it’s deterioriated, has contributed to the blighting of the neighborhood.”
Elkhart officials were well aware of neighbors’ concerns and after legal wrangling with the building’s owner, are finally tearing down the 175,000 square foot structure.
“We’ve been looking at the site for a couple, three years, trying to figure out how to get the thing down,” said city Brownfields Coordinator Denny Correl. “The absentee owner issue was a real problem, but we finally made it to this point.”
Once demolition is wrapped up in the next 60 days, the city’s attention will shift to the soil under the building.
“The first thing we are going to do after we get the building down is to remediate the soil,” Correl added. “We need to do more investigation on the EPA side, on the environmental side.”
Once the Walter Building comes down and clean up of the property is complete, the city will move on to the next phase of the project, and that is taking a look at what the future could hold for this site and how it could be best used.
“Once that’s completed, then we will set the property up for sale and entertain offers on it,” Correl said.
“And we believe that there are any number of possibilities for positive redevelopment that will contribute to the quality of life for surrounding neighborhoods,” said Senne.
As part of the demolition process, crews have removed about 95% of the asbestos from the building and expect to complete the remainder of that task,
when demolition work starts in the front of the building on West Beardsley