by Kelly Hawes
The city of Logansport obtained title Monday to the former Salvation Army property downtown.
The Logansport Board of Public Works and Safety met Monday morning for the sole purpose of appropriating the $50,118.50 needed to close the deal. Officials then met with Salvation Army representatives Monday afternoon to complete the transaction.
Mayor Ted Franklin said he hoped the ground at Fourth Street and Melbourne Avenue would be used for development. He pointed out, though, that no deals were imminent.
“I can’t stress that enough,” he said. “This is a long-term plan. It opens it up for development, but there’s nothing in the wings.”
Franklin had supported a plan put forward by Leo Brown Group LLC to build a 44-unit senior housing complex on that property and the adjacent farmers market lot at Fourth and Market streets. That plan was rejected by the Logansport Board of Zoning Appeals, but Franklin has made it clear that he hopes to find another developer to put forward a new plan.
The Logansport Planning Commission will meet in special session at 7:30 this morning in council chambers on the third floor of the City Building to consider a senior housing ordinance. Franklin said the timing of the two meetings was coincidental. He said the city had no firm plans for the Salvation Army property, but he did say building a senior housing complex there remained a possibility.
“There are three sites,” he said. “That’s one of them.”
Franklin dismissed complaints that the farmers market location would be inappropriate for senior housing.
“A lot of this comes from a small but vocal group saying ‘not in my backyard,’” he said.
He noted that the Brown Group project would have resulted in an investment of more than $7 million.
“We can’t keep wishing with one hand and taking away with the other,” Franklin said.
Funding for the purchase came from the Logansport Redevelopment Commission, which voted in December to offer $50,000 for the property. The remaining $118.50 went for title work, Franklin said, and that money will come from the board of works budget.
In agreeing to buy the property, the commission was acting on a proposal from the Logansport Parks and Recreation Department, which wanted to tear down the old headquarters to make way for restrooms for the adjoining farmers market and Little Turtle Waterway Plaza.
Parks department representatives and others envision the area as a community gathering place for festivals such as Taste of Cass County, the Med Flory Jazz and Blues Festival and Art on the Avenue.
In comments after Monday’s meeting, Franklin made clear he did not share that vision.
“Those things can thrive at other locations,” he said.
The fact that the redevelopment commission agreed to buy the property for the parks department did not mean the land would be used for parks, Franklin said.
“They didn’t appropriate any money to build a bathroom,” he said. “The city owns the property. The city can determine how to use it.”
He pointed out that the city had been trying to attract senior housing downtown “for as long as I can remember.”
Asked whether public restrooms might still be part of any development plan, Franklin said, “It was last time. That alone would have saved the city $100,000.”
Parks department representative had estimated the cost of tearing down the old building and building a new one at roughly that amount. Franklin noted that the city had spent more than that on building restrooms alone at Fairview Park.
Franklin said he did not know when a project might be put forward.
“I know we’re getting a lot of looks,” he said. “We’re having looks all over town.”
Kelly Hawes is managing editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.