Chesterton Tribune



Riley's Railhouse owner set to buy 402 and 101 Broadway

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402 Broadway--and 101 Broadway as well--appear to have found a white knight.

Richard Riley, owner of Riley’s Railhouse at 123 N. Fourth Street, told the Chesterton Town Council at Monday’s hearing on 402 Broadway that the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee has approved his purchase of both buildings.

402 Broadway is the immediate issue--in January the council voted to declare the former Chesterton post office, most recently an antique mall, “unsafe,” on Town Engineer Mark O’Dell’s recommendation--but 101 Broadway has also been vacant for some time and a cause of concern for the council.

As George Manning, the owner of record of 402 and 101, noted on Monday, over the years he’s had multiple offers for both properties but none of the proposed tranactions would have been a good fit for Chesterton. “We love this town and held out for the right potential buyer,” he said.

And Manning did not dispute O’Dell’s findings of the condition of 402 Broadway, among them that the structure is severely water damaged, its roof compromised, and the interior badly mold infested. “Everything that’s been said is correct,” Manning said. “I have no objection to that.”

Riley, for his part, called Manning--402 Broadway is just across the street from the Railhouse--a good neighbor. “I can’t tell you how often we’ve seen (Manning) on the roof trying to fix it,” Riley said. “Certain things need to be put in perspective. I respect what he tried to do. But some things are just too big and too complicated for one person to solve alone.”

Riley did say that his plans for 402 in particular--but also for 101--are still fluid. He wants to preserve as much as possible the old post office’s mid-century architecture, though he’s not a particular fan of that style, and that he wants as well to keep its use commercial.

But Riley’s of two minds, at least, as to what to do with the roof. “Its an ongoing discussion,” he said. “Everyone has an idea.” Among other things, he’s considering adding a second floor, though doing so would not technically be in keeping with the mid-century style. Riley is also considering turning the roof into a train-spotting platform, in keeping with the theme of the Roadhouse, a railroad-themed bed-and-breakfast.

“The final design and use of 402 Broadway have not been settled,” Riley said. “But it will be rented out or we’ll put it to productive use ourselves. We are going full tilt. It will be made safe. I’m not telling you it will be immediately occupied.”

The ‘Unsafe’ Notice and Timeline

Yet there is an immediate complication: O’Dell’s Feb. 28 notice to Manning, giving him 30 days either to rehab 402 Broadway or else demolish it, will expire before Riley is able to close on the purchase.

And while Riley has already gone to work addressing some of O’Dell’s findings--he’s brought a dumpster to the property and has begun filling it with debris and old carpeting, has arranged for an electrician to inspect it next week, and is talking to Trout Glass & Mirror about removing signage and replacing windows--there’s simply no way he’ll be able to do anything like a thorough-going rehab in the 15 days before O’Dell’s order expires.

The council, meanwhile, while delighted to hear of Riley’s imminent purchase of 402 and 101 alike--and not wanting to “nail (him) down to any ultra-specific date,” as President Jim Ton, R-1st, put it--did want some idea as to Riley’s timeline for rehabing 402.

In the end members did this. Riley has until April 10 to vacate the unsafe building--a technicality because it’s been vacant for many months--to seal all entry points into 402, and to “remove all trash, debris, and fire-hazardous material in and about” it.

The council also instructed Riley to meet with O’Dell to discuss his plans and a timeline for the building, which he will present to members at a continued hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, April 10.

There’s no question that a great deal of work needs to be done to 402, Riley said. “It’s a long list. But I don’t see anything that cannot be accomplished. I will work with (O’Dell). I will provide him with updates. I’m excited about owning the building. I’m excited about owning the 101 building as well.”

Riley’s Last Thoughts

Riley did suggest that getting 402 and 101 rehabbed and usefully occupied will not be some magic bullet for curing Downtown Chesterton’s malaise. Currently--according to a list he provided the council--fully 20 storefronts along Broadway, South and North Calumet Road, and Grant Ave. are vacant.

“I’m asking you to focus on the Downtown,” Riley put it to the council. “There needs to be some resolution, some special effort.” Or, he warned, folks will stop having a reason to visit Chesterton and residents will stop having a reason to visit the Downtown.



Posted 3/14/2017





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