(La Porte County, IN) - The former La Porte County Home could become a destination pumping money into the local economy.
In a letter to the La Porte County Commissioners, a real estate agent listing the 1800s building for sale revealed the inside of the 22,000 square foot structure has been gutted and is ready for redevelopment by whoever buys it.
Larry Nickell wrote and signed the letter, co-owner of Woodlands and Waters Real Estate, Inc. out of Walkerton. Nickell said the current owner has also developed a concept of the structure across from the fairgrounds as the "La Porte County Ag and Events Center."
Nickell said the current owner's vision is the structure would host weddings, seminars, and other events with 22 hotel rooms along with a bridal suite and restaurant/bar.
"This is a very unique and ambitious concept," Nickell said.
The current owner also had blueprints drafted by an architectural/engineering firm for such use, which will sell with the building.
"The plans are ready for any potential buyer to send to Indiana state authorities for commercial approval," Nickell said.
Nickell also emphasized the process the La Porte County government followed in selling the building in 2020 was totally above board. He said the current owner was the only one who attended a public auction for the structure and placed an opening bid of $50,000 since no other bidders were in attendance.
Nickell said he'd been contacted by several residents who alleged something underhanded was at play for the county to sell a building well under the current asking price of $895,000. He said the auction was publicly advertised, and he set the listed price because of the amount of money the current owner invested in getting the structure prepared for redevelopment.
"The current owner has invested a great amount of money over and above the initial auction price of the property and has certainly gone above and beyond to provide the greatest opportunity for success for the next owner," Nickell said. "LaPorte County citizens should be thrilled about the prospect that exists considering the projected demolition estimates could have exceeded one million dollars."
Nickell went on to say he hopes people who've been grumbling and making false accusations are now satisfied.
"I hope this explanation offers insight to those who feel there has been somehow underhanded deeds at play here, but the reality is quite the contrary," Nickell said.
La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman has been among the people accused of benefitting from what skeptics have described as a rigged sale.
Friedman thanked Commission President Sheila Matias for reading the letter during last night's Commissioner's meeting and voiced disgust at people posting their accusations of dirty dealings over the home's sale on social media.
"I think it's important for the public to understand we followed the law to the letter in the sale of the county home. The new owners have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in that place two years since buying it to justify a higher asking price," Friedman said. "Like you and other elected officials who work hard at following the law and providing good, honest county government, I have frankly had it up to here with keyword warriors."
The listing for the County Home has been active since January 2022.