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South Bend to pay Bare Hands nearly $100,000 in settlement to take back control of downtown property for new use

Gates Service building in downtown South Bend
Marek Mazurek, WVPE
Gates Service building on Sept. 14, 2023 near downtown South Bend. The city moved to reclaim the property from Bare Hands Brewing.

Following years of disputes and lawsuits, South Bend has agreed to one final payment to the owners of Bare Hands Brewery in order to reclaim a prime piece of real estate in downtown South Bend.

In September, South Bend’s redevelopment commission voted to move forward with legal action if necessary to reclaim the Wayne Street site from the Granger-based brewpub. Now it looks like a lawsuit has been avoided with the redevelopment commission agreeing to pay Bare Hands $98,000 for partial repairs the company made to the property.

The city’s director of community investment Caleb Bauer told the commission Thursday most of that money will end up going to third-party contractors who did work on the site for Bare Hands, which included tearing down walls and installing new HVAC and plumbing systems.

The settlement allows the city to retake ownership of the property and seek a new round of proposals for development at the site that’s within walking distance of Four Winds Field.

The saga with Bare Hands began in 2016 when the city sold the former Gates Service Center property to the company for $1 in the hopes the company would open a brewpub there within two years. But deadlines passed, leading to a lawsuit that was eventually dropped with a new deadline to finish the project by 2022. COVID-19 pushed that deadline back to 2023, but with a full brewpub nowhere close to opening, the redevelopment commission voted in September to take back control of the property.

Representatives from Bare Hands did not respond to an interview request from WVPE on Monday.

The redevelopment commission will soon have a second chance to consider what to do with the site, though board member Eli Wax noted last year that property is much more desirable than it was back in 2016.

"A couple new apartment buildings are going to be built around there, Ivy has developed over the past few years. There's going to be a new expansion to Four Winds. There’s a lot of really exciting development that’s coming within these four blocks,” Wax said in September.

Whatever the city seeks to develop on the Wayne Street property, it will come at a time when more than 200 apartment units are coming to the south side of downtown. Indianapolis-based RealAmerica is planning on building 150 units on vacant land on Lafayette Boulevard across from Four Winds Field. Sixty of those units are slated for low-income tenants.

In addition, a company led by former Notre Dame basketball player Devereaux Peters will build 60 units nearby on South Michigan Street.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.