By JOHN KLINE email@example.com
---- — GOSHEN — There’s no word yet on what may be in store for the old Goshen Inn property on the city’s south side, though there’s a possibility that could be changing within a matter of weeks.
Ownership of the now-vacant property, located at 1375 Lincolnway East, has been in flux for about a year, when members of the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement with the city of Goshen concerning the county’s transfer of tax sale certificate interests for the property to the city.
The property was originally set to go to a special public auction last spring, where bidders would have had the chance to purchase the property from the county at a fraction of the back taxes owed. However, Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman last February asked the commissioners to instead sign the property over to the Goshen Redevelopment Commission.
Kauffman said he made the proposal due to concerns that a tax sale purchase would just perpetuate a string of failed enterprises that have plagued the property for more than a decade. The property had most recently been operated as the Goshen Inn and Conference Center by Kiran “Ken” C. Patel. Patel was murdered at the motel in October 2011 by a man he had hired to help with renovating the swimming pool area. The current owner is listed as Raghe LLC.
Kauffman feels the Goshen Redevelopment Commission is best to direct the course of action for the troubled, but valuable property. The county commissioners agreed.
The transfer of ownership has been working its way through the legal system, but the process has been slow, as there are numerous hurdles city and county officials must jump through before the process is finalized. Such hurdles include ensuring all parties involved are notified, allowing the property owners a designated amount of time to pay the delinquent taxes, etc.
However, according to Goshen Community Development Director Mark Brinson, there’s a chance the acquisition process could soon be headed toward a resolution.
“It’s in court right now, so it’s still active, but we have not received final word from the court and don’t have title to the property at this point,” Brinson said from his office Friday. “But things are continuing to move forward. ... The property is a prime example of how abandoned properties can have a negative impact on our community. The city is anxious to take possession of this nuisance property as soon as possible, so we can begin the redevelopment process.”
Brinson said that while demolition is a possible option for the old property, he thought it might be better to first put out a Request for Proposals, or RFP, to the community to see if there is anyone with a viable plan and the ability to finance a project that would not require demolition.
“Either option would be on the table,” Brinson said.
He added that city officials are holding off on exploring plans until the property is firmly in their hands.
“We haven’t even really begun the process of marketing the property, because we’re still waiting to see if we will take ownership at some point,” Brinson said. “So we want to wait until that point before dedicating any staff and resources to marketing the site. But we’re hopeful it will get resolved soon, because we know it’s a problem property and something the community is concerned about.”
Gladys Rosas, an employee of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, 1415 Lincolnway East, couldn’t agree more.
Rosas said she drives by the dilapidated Goshen Inn property every day on her way to work, and is more than ready to see something done with the property.
“Right now, it pretty much just looks abandoned,” Rosas said of the property, which is located directly north of the Holiday Inn property. “I don’t want to say it, but it just looks trashy in a way. Goshen’s downtown is so beautiful, and then you get here, and it’s just an eyesore.”
Given a choice, Rosas said she’d love to see the property torn down and converted into something like a new sit-down restaurant.
Stephanie Cook, an employee with the Lippert Human Resources Corporate Office, 1700 Shasta Drive, said she’s also tired of seeing the vacant property every day and is ready for a change.
“It’s kind of run down, and there’s lots of weeds, and it’s not the prettiest site to look at and drive by every day,” Cook said. “Personally, I think something nice like maybe an Olive Garden or similar restaurant going in there would be great. Or maybe a Starbucks, since we don’t have anything like that on this side of town. So just something that would be nice and easy for people in Goshen to enjoy.”
Perhaps a park?
Over at Affordable Tires, 1503 Fairfield Ave., employee Karla Torrejon said while she hasn’t really experienced any problems being located so close to the vacant property — the store is located just across the street to the north — she is definitely ready to see something done with the property.
“I’d love to see it turned into a park,” Torrejon said. “I think they should just knock it all down and get a park in there.”
Cheryl Blaum, a Goshen resident who lives about a block away from the old Goshen Inn property on 16th Street, had a slightly different vision for the property, however.
“I’d hate to see it all torn down, so I wonder if it couldn’t be turned into some kind of housing or apartments, or maybe even some low-income housing,” Blaum said. “Putting in a nice restaurant would also be nice I think. Not a fast food chain or anything, but something really nice. I remember going there years ago when there was a Sunday buffet, which was really fun. So it would be nice to get something back in there, rather than just letting it sit there empty.”