Charles Black Center needs repairs less than five years after renovations

NOW: Charles Black Center needs repairs less than five years after renovations

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - South Bend's common council dedicated 4.5 million dollars to renovating the Charles Black Recreational Center in 2016. Crews broke ground in 2017. The project was finished with a new modernized wing added to the building in 2018. Now, in 2021, the Charles Black Center needs repairs again. A recent tour of the facility revealed cracks in the walls and foundation that Second District South Bend Common Councilman Henry Davis, Jr. deemed unacceptable.

"I'm looking to ask for a project review of the Charles Black Center," Councilman Davis said. "There was 4.5 or 4.4 million dollars spent to renovate and also create this new reality. Right now, we're looking at major cracks in the floor joist, and also, the floor itself is moving, and this is a brand new project."

Councilman Davis took a tour of the facility with LaSalle Park Neighborhood Association Vice President Marvin Crayton. Both saw cracks in the walls and foundation they found disturbing. Crayton also said the heat in the building was poorly regulated.

"I see cracks all over the place," Crayton said. "I don't know why it's like that. Perhaps, it wasn't compacted, and I can see a crack right beside a control join in a major wall."

In lieu of an interview, The City of South Bend released a statement after learning of the cracks in the renovated parts of the Charles Black Center.

“VPA (Venues Parks and Arts) staff recently discovered that hairline cracks had developed on walls that were part of recent improvements to the Charles Black Center. Preliminary structural inspections were conducted on March 10th and March 24th and determined that the cracks do not pose an imminent danger concerning the structural integrity of the building. Contractors are working with the City to identify the underlying cause and a repair.”

Crayton was a retired owner of a construction company. He said he disagreed with the city's evaluation of the building's integrity.

"Well, the wall can fall down as far as that cracking is going," Crayton said. "It's starting to do it already. It's deteriorating. Yeah, it can fall."

Councilman Davis said he found the cracks in the gymnasium floor troubling. He said he could fit a flathead screw driver into the cracks. He also said the floor moved as he walked on it.

"You see the cracks in the ceiling," Councilman Davis said. "You see the floor moving. We need a do over right now."

Councilman Davis did not know how long a full review of the original renovation project would take, but said there is a chance the city would have to pay four million more dollars to renovate the Charles Black Center again. Both he and Marvin Crayton suspected poor craftsmanship by the project's general contractor was to blame for the deterioration of the renovation. That contractor, Gibson-Lewis, LLC, declined our request for an interview. Instead, it said the situation was "under review."

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