Condo project wins riverfront site over community boathouse proposal

ELKHART, Ind. (WNDU) - And the winner is….

The city of Elkhart put a prime piece of riverfront property off Jackson Boulevard up for sale. On Tuesday, members of the Elkhart Redevelopment Commission had to choose between two competing offers.

In the end, the winner was Portage Place Development and its $10 million to $12 million plans to build 21 high-end condos with rooftop gardens and boat slips.

“That site has been vacant or unoccupied for a long time, most of my life,” Portage Place member David Weaver said. “I'm a resident born and raised in Elkhart, Indiana, and we're extremely excited to see the momentum of redevelopment in the community.”

The proposed project that lost out called for a community-funded boathouse that would be open to the public and serve the area’s river rowing needs.

“We are very disappointed. Team Rowing worked very hard. I believe we have the support of the community behind us. We are disappointed that this board chose to give the last piece of property on the upper St. Joe River to 21 people for their private use,” Team Rowing’s Tom Schoff said. “Our plan, as you know, included public use for the site, which is what it should have been.”

Weaver pointed out that the housing inventory in Elkhart is at an all-time low of 280 units.

“There’s nowhere for people to live in our community, so it’s really exciting that we’re bringing new product, fresh product to market that’s never been built in our community,” he said.

Weaver seemed sympathetic to the cause of his competitor, Team Rowing.

“Regardless of the decision from the redevelopment commission that if row or crew is that important to our community, which I think it would be fantastic that it continues and that it continues at a different site," he said. "The regatta was an amazing and nostalgic part of a lot of Elkhart residents' bringing up or growing up, and we didn’t have that crew house, so it would be great to see that energy and excitement get around the regatta and get around the crew house, maybe just at a different location. If there’s any way we can help with that, we’d love to.”

But Shoff claimed Team Rowing looked at 13 or 14 spots along the river “but from a safety standpoint -- and that’s what we were with, safety of the kids -- that spot ... was the best location because of the straightness of the river there, the calmness of the water.”