- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

GARY, Ind. (AP) - A developer plans to spend $2.5 million to renovate a century-old office tower that would be home to the city’s first downtown bank in six years.

Hobart-based developer Gateway Partners LLC recently purchased the 10-story Gary State Bank building for an undisclosed sum, the Post-Tribune and The (Munster) Times reported.

Gateway bought the building on Feb. 24 from EFN Gary Property LLC, headed by Edward Napleton, an auto dealer who’s owned it since 1999, the Post-Tribune reported Monday.

A community bank in northwestern Indiana has agreed to move into the building’s first floor and will get naming rights for the renovated tower, Gateway managing partner Vance Kenney said.

“If you’re a lover of old historic buildings, this has everything,” Kenney told The Times. “It’s got all of the stonework. The exterior is a very solid structure. It’s ornate in a way that banks just aren’t any more. … It’s a very, very nice historic piece of property that just needs some attention.”

Chase Bank had most recently occupied the building’s stately interior but it vacated the site in 2008. Five tenants currently occupy the 10-story building, which is about 80 percent vacant. The pharmacy on the first floor has been planning to move for months. Kenney hopes the improvements will persuade the pharmacy to stay.

Kenney says the plans call for tearing down three adjoining buildings south of the tower to make room for a two-lane bank drive-thru, an off-street parking lot and green space.

Kenney and his partners are asking the city to create a tax-increment financing district encompassing only the building that would capture its property taxes, which they would put toward the renovations.

The goal is to sell about $2.875 million in bonds in April and begin a six-month $2.5 million construction project that includes the demolition, a modernization of the bank interior, common area upgrades and refurbishing facades and windows. The tower’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems also will be upgraded.

Kenney plans to sign new a new tenant or tenants, and use their commitments to secure financing for more renovations.

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