By: Mark Peterson

A picture may paint 1,000 words, but it can also give you a pretty good idea of what the old Chase Tower building would look like after $30 million worth of improvements.

Standing 25 stories tall, the building is the tallest in South Bend, and the structure that dominates the skyline.

“Well, this building is really interesting. The first time I came to it you know, I came off the freeway, I could see it from the freeway,” said Robert Kraemer with the Kraemer Design Group. “I was like, wow, this is really the tallest building in town. We were sad to find out the condition of the building, it’s in really poor disrepair and had really in a sense, hit it’s life span of all the mechanical, electrical systems of the building, so we have to kind of gut and start over, this owner has committed to doing so.”

Kraemer today told South Bend Common Council members today that the construction documents will be finished in about 60 days, and that work on the parking garage could begin as early as next week.

A total investment of $30 million would turn the old Chase Tower into the new Tower at Washington Square.

The lower third of the building would be occupied by the parking garage. The middle third would be hotel rooms. The upper third would be luxury apartments.

Last year, renovation plans of about $6 million were announced for the same building. Those are now being replaced with the much more expensive and ambitious

The hotel brand that would set up shop in the building is Aloft South Bend—under the Starwood brand. Aloft already has a presence in Detroit, and in College Station, Texas. Those facilities have been described as chic and trendy.

“Aloft is actually all on its own and it really targets a different type of customer. I like to think of it as a boutique hotel although it does repeat, each one you go to is similar in color, shape, style,” said Kraemer. “What we find is that people who stay there for the first time really find it different. And they either love it or they hate it in a sense, right? But they’re one of the fastest growing brands in the country and highly supported by Starwood.”

The City of South Bend is being asked to grant tax abatements for the project that are so generous, that members would have to waive their rules. Under the 10 year plan, $3.7 million in property taxes would be abated while $2 million would be paid to the city. The city is not being asked to make a cash contribution to the Washington Square renovation.

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