An abandoned building sits in the center of the city, once a symbol of financial growth and civic pride becomes a symbol for community decline and failure of vision. A once vibrant hub of offices for attorneys, insurance agents, dentists, and doctors, the building was once a hub for the city’s service industry.
History has not been kind to this structure and to the city center that it dominates. Businesses and services have failed or fled to the suburbs. The office buildings went dark, too big to tear down and useful only in real estate games.
This description of the Marion National Bank Building located on the southwest corner of Fourth Street and Washington could also be used for the Warren Building in downtown. Michigan City, Indiana. Both had been an anchor for city businesses; the MNB from 1915, the Warren from 1927. Both were the tallest buildings in their cities, topping out at seven and six stories respectively. Both had some occupancy over time and finally abandoned.
At this point, the stories diverge. The MNB is now empty after being sold at least two times at tax sales; the building is vacant. The previous owner allowed the stripping of salable metals from the building. The banks one remaining tenant leaves in 2016. In the last two years, pieces of the terra cotta facing have fallen off. Events in Michigan City took a different turn starting in about the year 2000. As described by a founder of the project
“… the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce invited Artspace to visit the community. Artspace’s attention soon focused on the transformation of the Warren Building, a six-story office building dating from 1927. The tallest building in the nationally-designated Franklin Street Historic District, it is a seven story building with terrazzo floors, high ceilings, and large windows.”
This visit resulted in renovating the property and converting it to,“Artspace Uptown Artist Lofts … a mixed-use project with 44 affordable live/work units for artists and their families with ground-floor studio and commercial space. It is centrally located within the Uptown Arts District, a six-block stretch of Franklin Street that is already seeing many signs of arts-driven economic renewal.”
Area coordinator for Indiana Landmarks Paul Hayden recognizing similarities of the two buildings met with SOS chairman Dave Homer and arranged a visit to the Michigan City were Mayor Jess Alumbaugh, administrative assistant Mike Flynn, Kayla Johnson of Marion Mainstreet, Deb Guyer of the Quilter’s Hall of Fame, Bill Munn Vice Chairman of SOS, and Mary Eckerle of the Marion Public Library.
The Warren Building has become a “catalyst” for a new Michigan City. It can happen in Marion with the Marion National Bank.
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