Finish line in sight for Dalton Arms
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org July 31, 2011 9:48PM
A sign proclaims the building is taking lease applications at the old Dalton Arms building Wednesday, July 27, 2011, in Gary. | Scott M. Bort~Sun-Times Media
Dalton Arms at a glance
Where: 121 E. 5th Ave., Gary
What: 57 units, 706 to 1059 square feet (six Americans with Disabilities Act rated units)
Amenities: Fitness center, community room, central elevator in tower, intercom entry, on-site management, controlled access, business center with high-speed Internet, security cameras.
Updated: November 2, 2011 1:52PM
More eyesore than landmark, the Dalton Arms has been a stark, tattered reminder of Gary’s better days.
After a decade mired in stalled construction, Dalton Arms is ready to reclaim its former glory. The building’s been given a total makeover, complete with historic touches funded with $9.4 million in tax credits.
Tenants could begin moving in later in the week as the three-story, 15-unit east section opens. By September, the seven-story 42-unit adjoining tower is expected to open, said Lance Swank, chief operating officer of Sterling Group of Companies, based in Mishawaka.
Built in 1928 for Joseph and William Dalton of the Dalton Coal. Co., the Art Deco building on 5th Avenue, just east of Broadway, followed the same path of decay and neglect as much of the city. For years, it stood empty with broken windows and scattered debris.
Since 1999, Dalton Arms has seen a string of suitors promising to restore it. The city worked with them, and bonds and loans were issued.
Businessman Bill Harrington made the first overture in 1999, but made little progress. In 2003, Shawn Loyden of Florida-based Gary Progress Development, took on the renovation. Again, little happened, despite bonds and loans issued through the city’s Community Development Department.
In 2010, federal agents from South Bend delivered a subpoena to Gary’s Community Development Department seeking payment records on a $2.9 million loan for the project. Gary provided records between 2003 and 2007. No charges or indictments have been issued.
Finally, last year, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority tapped Swank to finish the affordable housing project with a September 2011 deadline. Swank and his brother, Larry Swank, partnered with Loyden under the name Dalton Apartments LLC. Almost immediately, dust kicked up and work got under way.
“The financing people brought us in to figure out what went wrong and get it completed,” said Lance Swank. “We’ll be managing it. We’re in it for the long haul.”
Chuck Hughes, executive director of the Gary Chamber of Commerce, was on the City Council in 1999 when the venture first arose.
“It was supposed to happen in a few years,” he said. “There were some serious questions about the developer, and it’s changed two or three times. I’m happy it finally happened.”
Swank said workers have taken pains to retain the historical aspects of the structure in keeping with its listing on the National Historic Register. The site was also known as Gary’s Standard Liquors building.
Many units, for example, have the original dark oak-stained glass china cabinets. The paneled doors have been sanded and stained the same color, along with the oak floors. The original tin ceilings have been preserved or copied when necessary, and the long-gone galvanized siding on the west side of the building was replaced.
Each apartment has a different footprint, but all of them have exposed duct work of the original era, along with modern upgrades such as dishwashers, microwaves, programmable thermometers and cable access. Each floor has a washer and dryer.
Swank said residents will have their own keys to enter the locked building. Guests will be buzzed in through an intercom. There will be a full-time maintenance staff and security, Swank said.
The original, large glass arch above the doorway has been re-created to serve as the main entrance on 5th Avenue. The first floor will be leased as commercial space.
Swank said the construction has attracted interest, and several people have registered and prequalified for an apartment.
“It’s a big deal; nobody thought this would get done,” Swank said. “It’s wonderful to see something positive in the community.”
Reach Carole Carlson