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WL dials back emergency on ATO house demolition near Purdue
Ready to impose historic status on ex-ATO house, WL gives owner time first. Plus, a $220M expansion coming at Evonik. And judge weighs next step in candidate's challenge of Indiana’s 2-primary rule
Welcome this morning sponsor Michael McNeil, who will present the opening of his new watercolor show at the Bindery, 511 Ferry St., in downtown Lafayette, Friday, June 3. Gallery hours for the opening, during downtown’s First Friday, will be 5-9 p.m.
A DELAY ON THE ATO FRATERNITY HOUSE DECISION
Well, that de-escalated quickly.
About this time a month ago, the West Lafayette City Council was in emergency mode, prepared to call a rare special meeting designed to slap an involuntary local historic district on the former Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house and quash a demolition permit for the 100-year-old brick structure on Russell Street.
The council slowed its roll a bit in mid-May, after the West Lafayette Historic Preservation ratified an interim historic designation for the property, which effectively put PCM Properties’ demolition permit application on hold.
The council backed off some more Thursday afternoon, agreeing to postpone a vote scheduled for next week that could impose a local historic district on 314 N. Russell St. The move would be a first for the city for an individual property. Council President Peter Bunder, who also serves on the historic preservation commission, said the delay came at the request of the developer, who asked for more time to come up with development options that fit with city expectations.
The matter is now expected at the council’s July 5 meeting.
Ryan Munden, an attorney for PCM Properties, said there are no firm plans for the property, following a failed attempt in 2021 to replace the fraternity house with a mixed-use project of apartments and retail just west of Purdue’s main academic campus.
During a May 9 Historic Preservation Commission meeting, Munden had pressed city officials to work with the ATO house owner by setting parameters for what would be acceptable there. At that meeting, Munden had specifically called out Bunder, who has been critical of some housing developments near Purdue’s campus. At the time, Munden said he believed the city was wielding the local historic district threat as a weapon against the property owners.
On Thursday, Munden said he’d with Bunder earlier this week and came up with what he called “some acceptable guardrails.”
“Right now, it’s boarded up, which is something I don’t think Purdue is excited about and I don’t think the city is excited about, either,” Munden said. “We don’t have fraternities knocking down the doors to use the property, so we need to do something. … At least we’re getting somewhere that isn’t a choice between ‘no’ and ‘hell, no.’”
Hell, no was the first response.
In October 2021, the West Lafayette City Council voted down a planned development rezoning request that would have cleared the way for PCM to build Russell Station, a four-story, 101-bed apartment project with first-floor retail space. The project was expected to cost $12 million to $15 million, with a projected opening date of fall 2023.
The proposal came with opposition from Purdue’s top attorney who contended that the university’s plans for that corridor through campus envisioned the former ATO house remaining as it was, either as a fraternity or sorority or another student housing option. It also came with protest from ATO fraternity brothers and members of the Greek community, who claimed PCM systematically had pushed out the ATO chapter through escalating rents and deferred maintenance on the century-old house.
Historic preservation fans protested, too.
The National Register of Historic Places listed the Alpha Tau Omega house in 2002, referring to it as “Maltese Manor” and saying it was a landmark, its Tudor Revival and Collegiate Gothic style “a prime example of the craftsmanship and grandeur of the late-1800/early-1900 building trends on university campuses.” The National Register rated the ATO house as “outstanding, despite its replacement windows and addition.”
In its vote in May, the West Lafayette Historic Preservation urged the city council “to use the authority and mechanisms at your disposal to protect this historic property and encourage an appropriate and responsible adaptive reuse.”
Bunder said Thursday that he was willing to give PCM Properties the time it needed to come up with a plan that didn’t include outright demolition.
“There has to be a way,” Bunder said.
Munden said that whatever that way was, it would have to make sense for the property owner, too. He said a city move to force a local historic district on the property – which would bring more restrictions on remodeling and redevelopment – would likely prompt a lawsuit in return.
“We’re not looking to get to that point,” Munden said. “What we asked was, Give us a month, let’s see what we can figure out.”
EVONIK ANNOUNCES $220M EXPANSION IN TIPPECANOE COUNTY
Evonik’s Tippecanoe Labs will get a $220 million expansion as part of a national effort to make components for vaccines and therapies for infectious diseases and potential pandemics in the future, the German-based company announced Thursday.
For Tippecanoe County, that would more than 80 jobs at the former Eli Lilly-Tippecanoe Labs plant just southwest Lafayette in Shadeland. (WLFI’s Joe Paul reported the jobs would be in the $100,000 salary range.) The company, which produces chemicals for pharmaceuticals, already has 650 employees at the plant on Lilly Road.
According to Evonik, the plan is to build a production facility for pharmaceutical lipids, which are molecules that make up the building blocks of living cells and are critical to making mRNA-based drugs. During the pandemic, Evonik provided lipids to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the company said.
According to the company, the facility in Tippecanoe County would allow for rapid production of various lipids, that could be used in infectious disease control, cancer immunotherapy and gene therapy.
The federal government will put $150 million into the project through its Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, BARDA works on advanced development of countermeasures for health security threats.
Construction is expected to start in early 2023, according to a company release, with a plant ready to go in 2025.
Local incentive packages weren’t released, though Paul reported the company would ask for a property tax abatement and local job training funds. Inside Indiana Business reported that the Indiana Economic Development Corp. was talking about up $5.3 million in incentives based on Evonik’s planned investment.
This and that …
BOOKWALTER, BALLOT ACCESS CASE UPDATE: Arguments were fairly short and sweet Thursday afternoon in a Marion County court hearing, as an attorney for Charles Bookwalter, a would-be U.S. House 4th District candidate booted from the May 3 Republican ballot, made a case to send his challenge of Indiana’s two-primary law to appeal. Bookwalter’s argument: Marion Superior Judge Cynthia Ayers already had ruled against an emergency attempt to put him back on the ballot, saying Bookwalter’s case wasn’t likely to succeed in the trial court. He’s asking the court to save the expense of a trial and get straight to an appeal with his contention that the law is unconstitutional. Christopher Anderson, a deputy attorney general representing the Indiana Election Commission, said the move was unnecessary. Ayers gave both sides until Monday to offer proposed orders, basically asking her for an up-or-down ruling on moving the case out of her court. Ayers told the attorneys she’d have a ruling “soon after” that, ahead of a scheduled June 27 hearing on the state’s motion to dismiss Bookwalter’s case. For more on Bookwalter’s contentions, here’s a story from yesterday’s edition:
THE INDIANA SECRETARY OF STATE CAMPAIGN: Indianapolis Star reporter Kaitlin Lange had an interesting piece in this week about the Republicans looking to be the party’s nominees for secretary of state. Holli Sullivan, appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2021, has three challengers, including former 4th District candidate Diego Morales, that delegates will choose from at the party’s convention June 18. The upshot in Lange’s story: This has become a party referendum on Holcomb as wings of the party fight for control over who and what is conservative or not conservative enough. The story is full of accusations about job performance, smear campaigns and just what counts on the topic of secure elections. Here’s a link to the Star account.
The Associated Press followed with an account that looked a bit more at Morales’ work history in state offices, including the secretary of state’s office, and his contention that the 2020 election was a “scam.” Here’s a way into the AP piece.
Thanks, again, to Lafayette artist Michael McNeil, who helped sponsor today’s edition. McNeil will present the opening of his new watercolor show at the Bindery, 511 Ferry St., in downtown Lafayette, from 5-9 p.m. Friday, June 3, during downtown’s First Friday event.
THANKS FOR MAKING THE FIRST YEAR OF THE BASED IN LAFAYETTE REPORTING PROJECT WORK. READY TO SUBSCRIBE?