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Rabbi Shulman Plaza Apartments to be demolished

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 6:40 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - 16 News Now has learned that both of South Bend’s public housing high rise buildings are in danger of being demolished.

The local housing authority board has already decided that demolition is the best option for the six-story Rabbi Shulman building.

Board members have passed a resolution that seeks federal permission to tear the building down.

An inspection of the building determined it would cost too much (about $17 million) to rehabilitate the structure. That’s about the same cost as new construction.

“The systems were failing. The simple age and long term failed maintenance and management of the building have contributed to the deteriorating conditions,” said South Bend Housing Authority Director Catherine Lamberg. “You hurt to see such a historic building that means a lot in this community, have to be demolished.”

The housing authority has since ordered similar studies on all of its properties and a similar conclusion is not only possible, it is “expected” where the authority’s four-story Westcott apartment building is concerned

“The high rises would rise to the level of the greatest concern that I have and the inability to do anything about it, you know? What I don’t have is sufficient resources to go in the high rise and replace all the plumbing, I don’t have that,” Lamberg explained.

The two multi-story apartment buildings are the two biggest in terms of the number of housing units they contain. Each building has 127 units and together they represent nearly la third of all the authority’s inventory.

It’s the housing authority’s hope that any demolished building would be replaced with a new one. “You don’t automatically get a new one, you’ve got to make that happen and that’s what we’re in the process of doing,” said Lamberg. “The housing authority has every intention to stay in this area on the property that we own so if we find we have to do demolition, the intent is to rebuild directly on our original footprint.”

The authority has started searching for a private partner to develop a new building on the Rabbi Shulman site.

The authority’s former director faces criminal charges for alleged financial impropriety.

Lamberg doesn’t think federal officials will hold that against her.

Last week, Lamberg learned that the South Bend authority will receive a $100,000 HUD grant for a security initiative, and a $1.1 million grant to address the physical condition of its buildings. “We have a competent staff in place, a plan to move forward, and the confidence that that is happening.”

Mayor James Mueller, (D) South Bend provided the following written comment on the situation:

“It’s a shame that years of fraud and neglect at the Housing Authority took these housing options at Rabbi Shulman away from our community,” said Mayor James Mueller. “Dr. Lamberg inherited a tough situation and has to make difficult decisions to turn around the Housing Authority. The City will continue to pursue ways to help provide safe, affordable housing in South Bend.”

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