101 Broadway as well--appear to have found a white knight.
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
The ‘Unsafe’ Notice
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.
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 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