Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 6, 2013

City wants to buy vacant building

Common Council to vote on Armstrong Landon Building.

By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer

— The vacant Armstrong Landon Building and two nearby parking lots could come under city control if the Kokomo Common Council passes a resolution Monday.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight is asking permission to purchase the six-story building, the parking lot behind the building and a parking lot across Superior Street, on the west side of the Indiana Department of Revenue building.

The Armstrong building has been vacant since Harris Bank moved out in 2011.

Goodnight said the city simply wants to control future development on a key downtown corner.

“I don’t want to still own the building in six months or eight months,” Goodnight said Friday. “We’re not looking to expand the city’s footprint, or the size of city government. We’re not looking to relocate city offices.”

Bolinger Enterprises purchased the building, 105 W. Sycamore St., for $200,000 from Harris last year. The previous time the building sold, in 2002, First National Bank & Trust paid $5.3 million, according to county tax records. Harris merged with First National in 2008.

According to the county, about $128,000 in back taxes are owed on the property. Property tax records show no payments have been made since the first installment payment in 2011.

With the commercial real estate market hard hit by the recession, it has become more commonplace for cities to step in to finance deals, particularly on properties which might serve a particular use in developing a geographic area.

City attorney Lawrence McCormack said the city may turn the property over to the Kokomo Redevelopment Commission, which would in turn seek to find a buyer/developer for the property.

McCormack said the city is still in negotiations over a purchase price. However, the city administration needs permission from the city council to make the purchase. The council will decide whether to grant permission at Monday’s council meeting, 7 p.m. at Kokomo City Hall.

Goodnight pointed to recent city-brokered land deals in Columbus, Franklin and Carmel as models for what the city is attempting to do.

“This isn’t a new thing, except for Kokomo,” he said.

In Franklin, a city-funded, nonprofit is providing about 70 percent of the cost of turning an old downtown print shop into a retail/apartment development.

And in Carmel, the city’s redevelopment commission has spent about $4 million acquiring the former Party Time Rentals property at Carmel Drive and Rangeline Road and is seeking to sell the property to a developer who plans to raze the structure and build an as many as 450 luxury apartments.

Finally, in Columbus, city officials have proposed a deal whereby the developers of an $11 million downtown apartment complex would get $2.3 million in bond financing from the city. The city is planning to use most of the property tax revenue generated by the project to pay off the bonds.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com

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