Major improvements ahead for troubled Chase Tower

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South Bend, IND. -- The new owner of South Bend's troubled Chase Tower is closer to securing a tax abatement for improvements to the iconic building.

On Monday, the common council voted unanimously to declare the site an 'economic revitalization area' for the purpose of a 4-year tax abatement.

If approved, Washington Square would pay over $1 million in taxes during the abatement period.

The realty group bought Chase Tower last month at a sheriff's auction.

They plan to spend nearly $6 million over the next two years repairing the building. Most of the money will help address issues with deferred maintenance, which tenants have complained about for years.

"There's a huge list of needs," said Andrew Nemeth, who represented Washington Square at Monday's meeting. "The elevators need to be fully modernized on the office side. The parking garage needs some major structural work. It's fine now, but it needs to be addressed. "

Nemeth says the windows, roof, HVAC system and piping also need work.

The improvements are welcomed by the city, after Chase Tower spent several years in receivership.

"It's certainly an iconic building," said Director of Community Investment Scott Ford. "And, as the tallest building in the region, having it reconditioned and improved, I think it will be a tangible sign of the progress that's being made in South Bend."

The project will create one job with a salary of about $40,000 and 18 jobs will be retained.

Nemeth says a national hotel brand could also move into the building, although he was tight-lipped on any details.

"\We don't have any specifics at this time, other than we'll be working on that diligently," he said.

Ford says the city is encouraged by the prospect of a big-name hotel coming back to the building. Not only could it help draw additional tenants, it could bring the city itself more business.

"It would really help us on the convention side," Ford said. "We do a great job at the Century Center. But, with the additional hotel rooms downtown, that would help us attract more events."

While Washington Square isn't asking for any city funds to help with the improvements, Nemeth says they haven't ruled out doing so somewhere down the line.

The common council still has to approve the actual abatement for the project.

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