- Associated Press - Friday, November 21, 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - The city has decided to replace Great Lakes Capital as the developer of the former LaSalle Hotel, yet another setback in the long-awaited redevelopment of the downtown landmark, which has been vacant for more than 10 years.

The Redevelopment Commission is expected to terminate the development agreement between the city and Great Lakes on Monday and award the project to Real America Development and Management instead, the South Bend Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1xy8pvS ).

The decision to part ways was mutual and had nothing to do with the viability of the project, said Scott Ford, executive director of Community Investment for the city.

“They actually have some bigger opportunities (downtown), so they’re working on some other exciting developments in the community, and this opens up some bandwidth for them to execute on those projects,” he said.

Ford declined to elaborate, referring all questions to Great Lakes.

Great Lakes did not immediately return a call seeking comment this morning.

The proposed development agreement between the city and Real America, of suburban Indianapolis, is substantially the same as the one inked with Great Lakes back in October 2013.

The plan calls for the nine-story building to be redeveloped into a mixed-use apartment building with 67 market-rate units and 8,000 square feet of ground-floor restaurant/retail space.

Real America plans to invest $7.5 million in the project, with the city contributing an additional $1.8 million in the form of tax increment finance dollars, to prepare the property for redevelopment.

The city will also agree to support a petition for tax abatement for the property.

The agreement transfers the building to Real America for $1 and sets a project completion date of Nov. 1, 2016, or 20 months after closing, whichever is later.

“We fully anticipate closing with them in first quarter of 2015, and they’re eager to get underway,” Ford said. “They’ve already had some engineers and others look at the property.”

Real America was one of three developers to respond to a request for proposals to redevelop the hotel back in March 2013, losing out to Great Lakes at the time.

Established in 1995, the real estate development and management firm has experience transforming historic properties into mixed-use developments, with two similar projects under its belt in Fort Wayne.

The company did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the project this morning.

“Real America is a great firm,” Ford said. “They were part of the original RFP process and they have expertise in historic preservation.”

This marks the third attempt in the past four years to redevelop the hotel. A previous attempt, by Mavcon Properties, of Kalamazoo, also ended in termination.

Great Lakes, for its part, had originally anticipated completing the project before the end of this year.

While acknowledging such setbacks, Ford expressed optimism moving forward.

“Certainly we would have liked (the project) to have gotten underway this past spring,” he said, “but I’m very confident we’ve got all the pieces in place for a transformation to occur.”


Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com

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