Developer sees ‘good potential’ in historic Mahencha apartments
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org October 2, 2013 7:36PM
Updated: October 3, 2013 11:03AM
GARY — The Redevelopment Commission sold the 86-year-old abandoned Mahencha apartment building Wednesday to a bidder who promised to restore its old glory.
Turnstone Development Inc. of Chicago was the lone bidder on the property at 1900 W. 5th Ave. The sale price was $35,000.
At Wednesday’s meeting, officials told the commission that Turnstone and its associates have extensive background in renovations of this type.
“We think it has significant historical character, as well as what we call in the industry ‘good solid bones,’ ” said architect Ronald R. Piekarz of Piekarz Associates in Chicago. He praised the 44,000-square-foot building’s exterior, calling it noncombustible, standing the test of time. “We’ve gone through the building. We think it has good potential,” he said.
He said the building’s interior would be modernized and made accessible. Turnstone, a not-for-profit company, plans to build 32 housing units for moderate- and low-income residents.
Piekarz Associates will design the building and Burling Builders, a Chicago construction company, which is adding a Gary location, will do the construction. Burling Builders is nearing completion of Phase 1 of Comfort Villas at 21st Avenue and Jefferson Street for CR Works, a community development organization.
Sue Wiemer, chief operating officer for Turnstone, said it plans to finance the renovation with historic tax credits.
“Gary needs revival, we want to help,” she said. “There are so many vacant buildings.”
She said the application process for the tax credits could take three to four months. Construction would take about 12 to 14 months. Turnstone hopes to have the building ready for occupancy late next year or in 2015.
Forest Hayes, president of the redevelopment commission, said the city will forge a local development agreement with Turnstone to ensure Mahencha is fenced immediately to safeguard the site. He said the city also wants local workers and contractors hired to do the work.
Hayes said there is a condition in the sale that if work isn’t done by the developer, the building will revert back to the city.
“This is a good day for Gary,” Hayes said. “Now, that we have a contract, we see it as the first step in the overall plan for the Horace Mann development.”
Hayes said Turnstone pledged to fill in any potential gaps in funding delays with its own resources.