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City officials eager for progress at Pump House

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City officials plan to seek an appraisal of the old city Pump House to get an idea of what a fair market rent or purchase price would be.

The building, formerly the Bartholomew County Senior Center, is next to the Second Street Bridge on Lindsey Street. It was leased to chef Daniel Orr in July 2011 for use as a restaurant and a brewpub. However, nothing has happened at the location since the lease was approved, and the terms of the lease have no teeth to ensure that anything is ever built at the location, Mayor Kristen Brown said.

Brown said the city is looking into hiring an appraiser to give an estimate on the rent and possible sale price but also to determine how much money the property could generate.

“We believe that the Pump House is very strategic to downtown development,” Brown said. “We have a lot of interest. It has not gone unnoticed to people in the community that for the restaurant that is planned for the pump house, construction has not even begun.”

A $3,500 contract for an appraisal by Appraisers Inc. will be considered tonight by the Redevelopment Commission. Although the commission does not own the property, it has an interest in making sure the building is used and helps to grow downtown business, Brown said.

“If there is an interested party with a good concept who can finance the renovation and repurposing into a restaurant-type facility, I think the redevelopment commission might be interested in talking to the city and the lessee to see if there is a willingness to terminate the lease,” Brown said.

Orr originally announced plans to have a restaurant open last year. However, last month he told The Republic in an e-mail that he is now shooting to open for next winter or spring of 2014.

Orr does not have to pay any rent on the property until his restaurant opens, Brown said. After that, he will pay only $100 a month and has the option to renew the lease for up to 25 years, while the city has no option in the lease to end it before then, Brown said.

While the property is unused, the city is obligated to maintain the exterior of the project. After that, Orr will be required to maintain the exterior. However, he is responsible for maintaining the interior of the restaurant before and after it opens.

A February inspection of the interior by the city’s maintenance staff and parks department workers found problems including:

  • Gutters pulling away from the roof edge
  • A missing downspout
  • Doors in bad repair
  • Missing shingles
  • A broken window
  • Mud dauber nests around the window
  • Damage to a corner of a load-bearing wall
  • Horizontal cracks in a small building addition
  • A hole in the building, possibly from an animal
  • Most of the landscaping has been removed
  • Trash and other items still in the building
  • No heat or air conditioning in use

Brown said she did not believe any maintenance work has been done since the senior center closed. The new senior center in Mill Race Park opened in February 2011, and the city began looking at new uses for the Pump House in March 2011. She said she was especially concerned that there appeared to be no heating or air conditioning because condensation can build up in the walls and mold can grow.

“Eventually there is going to have to be a significant amount of money invested to renovate and repurpose that property,” Brown said.

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