The vice president of the real estate brokerage company listing the 25-
story building was tight lipped Monday about who the potential buyer is and where they’re from. Tom Sommer, HREC Investment Advisors vice president would only confirm the bidder is not from the South Bend area.
WSBT spoke with Council Members Henry Davis, Jr. (D – 2st District), Dr. David Varner (R – 5th District) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D – South Bend) who all said they had not heard HREC had narrowed the field of potential buyers down to one. But the news is not stopping some Common Council members from asking Buttigieg for more transparency.
Newsweek Magazine called South Bend a dying city nearly 18 months ago. In a letter asking fellow council members to back his resolution asking for a renewed effort to focus on downtown development, Henry Davis Jr. dubbed the Chase Tower “…congestive heart failure currently attacking the very heart of our downtown.”
“I don’t think we have done enough as a whole [and] I don't think the mayor has done enough to make sure this building is taken care of,” Davis told WSBT. “The message to the mayor and to the rest of the council is that we need to do our job, we need to make sure we promote business growth in the downtown area.”
“I’m not sure specifically what they’re after,” said Mayor Buttigieg. “If he wants any other information, he should call me up. I'll tell him. We really need to be working together on this.”
As an item listed on Monday night’s meeting agenda, Davis planned to ask other council members to support a resolution asking the mayor for more transparency on the sale of the Chase Tower – a building that’s losing tenants, in foreclosure and in desperate need of repair.
“We want to be helpful any way we can, but it's not our building. It doesn't belong to the city. And the private sector ultimately owns it and needs to resolve this,” Buttigieg added.
However, he said his administration is working to help get the building sold to the right person by staying in touch with the firm listing the building for sale as well as tenants who still call the tower home for their businesses. IN addition, he said his office has been putting pressure on Huntington Bank which currently owns the building. The bank could be doing more to keep up with the building, Buttigieg told WSBT.
Councilman Varner said he supports the resolution, but he’s not critical of problems Buttigieg inherited from past administrations.
“The Chase Tower is still open, it’s still operating and I suspect the bank is hoping the market turns around and someone will pay more,” Varner said. And the reality is it's going to have to go at a price that allows it to be redeveloped without huge city support.”
The building was still listed for sale on HREC Investment Advisors’ website late Monday. WSBT spoke with some Chase Tower tenants and the St. Joseph County superior court currently presiding over the foreclosure and ownership issues. None of them had heard the news that the brokerage firm is moving forward with one interested bidder.
The Chase Tower was first listed for sale in 2011 and a Chicago-area developer expressed interest in November, but backed out of the deal after the city refused to invest money on repairs to the building.