Abandoned building raising safety concerns in one St. Joseph County neighborhood

NOW: Abandoned building raising safety concerns in one St. Joseph County neighborhood

MISHAWAKA, Ind. -- People living in one St. Joseph County neighborhood say a vacant building on the street is causing problems and raising safety concerns.

“It’s just continually been deteriorating and now it’s at a point where it’s basically a danger to the neighborhood,” said neighbor Jeff Vance.

The building used to be a church but Vance and neighbor Diana Sommer say the congregation left a little more than 20 years ago. They say various businesses moved in and out before the St. Joseph County Building Department condemned it in 2017.

Vance and Sommer say the building is an eyesore and a nuisance. Both neighbors want it torn down before someone gets hurt.  

“Being empty, there’s a lot of trouble over there,” said Sommer.

“There’s really been no trouble other than this eyesore building back here,” said Vance.

ABC57 first spoke to Vance and Sommer almost four years ago about the building. They say since then, problems like overgrown weeds, uneven, cracked pavement, suspicious parking lot activity, and wild animals living inside the building have only worsened.

Both believe the old church is lowering property values, however their main concern is safety. According to the neighbors, most of the neighborhoods kids play on and near the property. They say it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.

“I mean it really is dangerous,” said Vance. “There’s some issues here that could really hurt some kids or something… It might cost a little bit of money or something to get torn down but it’s a lot better than something happening to one of these neighborhood kids or something and then all of a sudden they realize something has to be done.”

“There’s been kids going in there so that’s not good,” said Sommer. “The mold for one thing would make them sick and there’s also raccoons in there that come out at different times in the evening and they will actually almost come at you if you’re not careful.”

Jaime Woods, the St. Joseph County attorney, says the building is on the county’s tear down list. He said the county just finished notifying people connected to the property, like the building owner, that the county wants to tear it down.

Woods said within the next few months the SJC building department will send out notices and go before the SJC Board of Commissioners and ask them to authorize a bid for demolition.

Woods says as long as the county can pay for the bid and hire a company to do so, the building will likely be gone by the end of the summer.

“I understand this isn’t Granger or Knoll Wood or some big fancy neighborhood, the taxes aren’t as high as those places, but we still do pay our taxes and this is a safety issue and it’s eyesore,” said Vance.

“I’m sure if it was gone and they had a nice house there, everyone would be really happy to have it as a house,” said Sommer. “Like i said if it can’t be a church and it can’t be anything, it shouldn’t be up.”

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