Drewrys owner answers questions from public at meeting Thursday

NOW: Drewrys owner answers questions from public at meeting Thursday

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- A problem years in the making was the topic of discussion at a public meeting Thursday. The old Drewrys Brewery site off of Elwood Avenue has been piled up with rubble and rusted metal since demolition began in 2017.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management found asbestos in the construction demolition debris back in August.

The discussion was hosted by Second District Councilwoman Regina Williams-Preston in the hopes of setting the record straight on what needs to be done to get clean up going.

“The most important thing is that we were able to bring together people who are kind of opposite sides of the issue,” Williams-Preston said. “There’s a lot of drama on Facebook, there’s a lot of conversation this has been going on for years.”

Community members were able to directly ask the Arizona-based site owner, Steve Durkee, questions about the property.

He joined Thursday’s meeting via video call. He said he wants to start the clean-up process immediately but he’s still sitting on thousands of dollars of fines and a demolition order from the city.

Dozens showed up to share their frustrations with what they're calling a danger to their neighborhood.

“I don’t care if they put a strip club there; it just needs to be cleaned up,” Becky Kaiser said, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 35 years. “We all know that there is asbestos on it. That’s blowing around my neighborhood.”

Durkee said he’s been asking for a meeting like this for a number of years. He’s put in over a million dollars of his own money towards the project and he said one of his biggest frustrations is illegal dumping on the site setting back clean up.

The Drewrys Property Manager David Drabecki also shares that frustration.

“Most of this stuff is coming from private landlords that own slum places that they probably kicked out people of. They’re just cleaning up and they got no place to dump except the old Drewrys,” Drabecki said.

When asked by community members what the timeline is for clean-up, Durkee said the timeline is now. He still has a vision to bring employment to the site with an urban food campus. Neighbors said they really don’t care what goes there, as long as it’s cleaned up.

“We want it gone and we want it gone safely,” Kaiser said.

After finding asbestos on the site in August, the state ordered Durkee to clean the asbestos and construction debris. City officials said since this is now a state case, code enforcement can’t take any action towards clean up.

Thursday’s meeting was not an official council meeting. It was just a public discussion to facilitate conversation.

Williams-Preston said the Drewrys site will be discussed next at the County Council Committee meeting Oct. 22 at 5:30 in the County-City Building.

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