City of South Bend seeks proposals for historic Lafayette Building

Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 6:48 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - It’s a fixer-upper of historic proportions.

The Lafayette Building in downtown South Bend (115 S. Lafayette) is said to be the first-ever commercial office building in the city, in that it catered to multiple unrelated tenants.

The building dates back to 1901. The last private owner of the property lost it to back taxes in 2018. The city is now searching extensively for the next private owner.

The most prominent feature of the building is the atrium. All five floors have a balcony, and there is a massive skylight on the roof.

“This is probably the tallest atrium in the city of South Bend by far, and it’s only one of a few, it’s probably one of the most unique interior spaces in the city,” said South Bend’s Property Development Manager Joseph Molnar. “We love this atrium, that’s why the city stepped in to save the building in 2018, and we’re hoping to save the atrium for, you know, for another 100 years to come.”

Occupancy peaked in the 70′s and 80′s at about 150-tenants, according to Molnar. The building has since fallen into disrepair. A leaky roof caused extensive water damage, and the building was sold at tax sale.

While there’s a lot of work to be done, a lot has already been done as the city has invested about $750,000 on the property.

“So, the city over the past few years has been putting in resources to fix the skylight, put a brand-new roof on, brand new drainage system, cleaned the exterior of the building, do asbestos and lead removal,” Molnar said.

Demolition isn’t an option. The building is protected as a local historic landmark.

The city has put out a request for proposals on the rehabilitation and reuse of the building. An open house will be held on Oct, 18. The proposals are due on Jan. 28, 2023.

“The hope is that now we’ve gotten it stabilized, we stopped the bleeding, so forth, on the building and we’re hoping a developer now can come in, invest even more money, and really get the building occupied again,” Molnar said.