The City of Marion now has one less building on its hands and one more in the hands of owners who plan to renovate and develop it.
That's how Mayor Jess Alumbaugh sees the sale of the Wolfe building, located at 139 E. Third St., which was approved by the Board of Works Monday morning.
Three local business owners partnered to form BDP Real Estate, LLC earlier this year with the intention of purchasing the Wolfe building, said Phil Bowers, one of the three.
BDP purchased the building from the city for $4,900, which Alumbaugh said was the appraised value of the property.
They plan to renovate the property in order to lease commercial spaces to two businesses on the ground floor of the building and two 4,000-square-foot market-rate apartments on the second floor.
Plans for the building's sale were delayed slightly by concerns of soil contamination from an old laundromat that used to operate on the corner of Adams and Third streets, but a contractor hired by the city tested the property and it was found to be free of environmental hazards.
The biggest challenge for the developers moving forward is the current condition of the building.
The building's gray Styrofoam facade has long been decried as an eyesore. At the Board of Works meeting, Bowers promised the facade would be the first to go, saying they already had contractors lined up and waiting to remove it.
Beyond the exterior, the building will need just about “everything” redone, Bowers said. The plan is to use historical images of the building in an attempt to restore some of the look and feel of the original building.
Last summer, Paul Hayden, director of Indiana Landmarks, told the Chronicle-Tribune that the building is “an Italianate structure” probably dating back to 1880.
Bowers' hope is to get started with renovations in the next 30 days. The market-rate apartments will most likely be finished first because the timeline for the commercial space will depend on the needs of the tenants, who will work with BDP to design the space.
Bowers said he's been speaking to some interested tenants but nothing is finalized, and they are still looking for tenants.
Alumbaugh is glad to have the property out of city hands.
“I'm trying to get the city out of the property business and let developers do what they need to,” Alumbaugh said.
It's also another step toward bringing business back to downtown.
“That side of the square, that whole north side, will hopefully have a whole new look to it and be occupied by next year,” the mayor said.
Alumbaugh said the city is still in the process of selling, or trying to prepare for sale, a few properties downtown. The city owns the former Mecca Club property on Third Street, which they hope to put up for sale soon.
The former Marion National Bank building has a buyer who has signed a purchase agreement but not yet finalized the deal, and the Old National Bank on First and Washington streets is in the process of being purchased by a local couple, Alumbaugh said.
“We're getting inquiries from developers all over the state, even outside the state. They're seeing things happening in Marion,” Alumbaugh said, describing the “ripple effect” development has on the city.
“There's a lot of opportunity in town, and I really feel strongly that there's a huge rebound and a lot of momentum,” Bowers agreed.
Bowers and his partners, Jon Preusz and Trent Dailey, hope to buy other properties in Marion in the future.