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City of South Bend finds buyer for historic Lafayette Building

What’s believed to be South Bend’s first office building has a new lease on life.

The city’s redevelopment commission Thursday voted unanimously to sell the Lafayette Building, located across the street from the County-City Building, to a group that plans to renovate it. The buyer, Lafayette OpCo LLC, is led by Rachel Brandenberger, a South Bend native who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The redevelopment commission is selling the building for $10,000, with some strings attached. Renovation work must begin within a year and be finished within five years. Brandenberger’s group must invest at least $8 million.

Renovation of the building, built in 1901, must include ground-floor retail and at least 30 apartments.

And finally, nothing can be done to the picturesque and historic atrium, the five-story building’s hallmark feature.

The city in 2019 spent about $750,000 to stabilize the building and stop water from entering. That work included replacing the building’s roof and renovating the atrium glass.

Brandenberger told the redevelopment commission Thursday that she envisions most of the apartments to be smaller, more affordable one-bedroom and studio units.

“It’s a building with architectural value, it’s a building with historic value,” said Caleb Bauer, executive director of community investment for the city. “It housed the offices of J. Chester and Elizabeth Allen, who were civil rights leaders here in South Bend.”

Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).