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Great Lakes Capital to redevelop LaSalle Hotel in downtown South Bend

By Denise Bohn, dbohn@wsbt.com
Published On: Oct 22 2013 02:04:50 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 22 2013 06:34:45 PM CDT

The city of South Bend is working on an $11 million agreement with a local firm to restore the old LaSalle Hotel. WSBT's Denise Bohn has the story.

SOUTH BEND -

Progress is being made on an $11 million deal to renovate the old LaSalle Hotel in downtown South Bend.

The historic building on Michigan Avenue by the Morris Performing Arts Center has been empty for nearly a decade.

In May, the city received 4 bids to redevelop it, including grabbing worldwide attention by getting one bid from an Israeli developer.

On Tuesday, the South Bend Community Investment Department announced what developer it wants to work with -- Great Lakes Capital.

"With each project, they bring a lot of value and expertise," said Scott Ford, Assistant Executive Director with the Department of Community Development.

The company is run by two local Riley High School graduates, and the men have already successfully renovated two other buildings in downtown South Bend.

They hope "third time's a charm" for the LaSalle Hotel, which they plan on turning into an apartment complex with some commercial space.

"It's another great step in downtown's come back," stressed Ford.

Under the deal, the city would chip in $1.8 million for infrastructure upgrades, like for a new roof as well as asbestos and lead paint removal, with the developer bringing $9 million to the table for major demolition and renovations.

"It's a beautiful historic structure, right on a major intersection. It's got great prominence, great bones, said Bard Toothaker, Managing Partner, Great Lakes Capital. "And it's very rehab-able."

Toothaker says the project includes 59 units, 23 one-bedroom and 36 two-bedroom apartments, as well as a fitness center and retail space, like a restaurant or shops, on the ground floor.

Rent would run an average of $400 to $1,300 a month.

And he's hopeful that if talks with the city go well, the apartments will be move-in ready by next fall.

"With each project, they bring a lot of value and expertise," explained Ford.

Great Lakes Capital has a good track record when it comes to rehabbing buildings in downtown.

In 2007-09, they renovated the American Trust Place on Michigan Avenue, which features Café Navarre, and a few years ago, they acquired the Citizen's Bank & Trust building on West Jefferson Avenue, which houses The Exchange Bar.

"We've been good and creative in the way we've restored buildings," assured Toothaker.

"We think that's going to provide a very active building that's going to add a lot to the neighborhood," added Ford.

And neither the city or the developer say parking is a problem.

They anticipate initially using the surface parking that already exists around the building and surrounding downtown to accommodate the people the restored LaSalle Hotel would attract.

A few years ago, a Kalamazoo company backed out of a deal with the city to buy the LaSalle Hotel because of money concerns.

But the city stresses that while they are still negotiating with Great Lakes Capital, they are far along in the development agreement process and hope to have an official deal done by mid-November.

Because the LaSalle has historical status, if the deal goes through, Great Lakes Capital would receive an Historic Tax Credit from the state.