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Community concerned over future of Portage Manor

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 5:55 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Concerns over the future of Portage Manor today stalled efforts to build new homes on the vast campus there.

Eight people spoke against the idea at a morning meeting of the St. Joseph County Commissioners.

Portage Manor is the county ‘home.’ It’s owned and operated by the county had houses indigent residents who have mental or physical disabilities.

11-days ago, the Portage Manor Executive Director resigned after five years on the job. While Robin Challinor wouldn’t say why, she did tell 16 News Now: “There’s opportunity to invest in that building and continue its work and why that’s being shifted to potentially somebody purchasing it, and getting rid of the county home, it makes no sense to me.”

At a time when Portage Manor needs $8 to $12 million worth of renovations to continue its mission, the county commissioners today focused on an out-of-town developer interested in building new residential units on a portion of the campus.

The commissioners were being asked to approve a letter of intent with Magnus Capital Partners that would have called for six months of exclusive purchase negotiations with the firm.

The developer was also interested in obtaining the first right of refusal on Portage Manor with respect to any future disposition, redevelopment, or change in control of the building.

“My understanding is they would get right of first refusal in the event that the county would ever want to sell it, but once again, that’s not something that we’re looking to do at this point in time, “said Commissioner Andy Kostielney.

Jonathan McKinnies warned the commissioners about unintended consequences. “You can say that there’s not going to be any displacement of those and that you’re going to keep Portage Manor, but I know that property values will be impacted when you’re redeveloping, and you have Portage Manor right there, it’s a slippery slope,

“I just really want this, the focus to be on the residents of Portage Manor,” said Challinor. “And although I can’ be there to do the work that needs to be done, the public, the media needs to know how important the work is and that it must continue. We serve such a vulnerable population.”

In light of the opposition, the commissioners tabled the matter.

The letter of intent from Magnus Capital Partners reads, “Consider the incorporation of the County-owned and operated asset known as Portage Manor into the project which may take the form of a redevelopment of Portage Manor as a component of the project or an operational integration of Portage Manor into the project. If the parties elect not to incorporate Portage Manor into the project, Magnus shall be granted a right of first refusal with respect to any future disposition, redevelopment, or change in control of Portage Manor.

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