MISHAWAKA — Building trades students at Mishawaka High School will learn renovation skills in addition to constructing a new house next year if the school district “buys” a house to upgrade.
The Mishawaka Redevelopment Commission on Monday will decide on an agreement to sell a house at 324 W. Mishawaka Ave. to the building trades program for $1. The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 600 E. Third St.
The house renovation plan is a first for the school’s building trades program. With currently high costs for building materials, teachers in the program have decided to expand its skills for students by offering a renovation program that will return the two-story, 1890s house on Mishawaka Avenue to its original state.
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The house was part of a $535,000 deal by the city in 2020 when it purchased the former Burns Rent-Alls building, two nearby homes and a former salon building at Mishawaka Avenue and Liberty Drive. The tracts were bought as the city plans for a potential parking lot and possible new development across from Battell Park.
While the salon building and two others were razed as part of the plan, the Burns building is still being considered for development, and the 324 W. Mishawaka Ave. house was kept intact and marketed.
Historic but altered
Although the Mishawaka Avenue house was built in 1890, it has been altered into multi-unit apartments. Details in the buy-sell agreement says the building trades program’s “goal is to restore details and general style back to the late 1800’s era of construction of the original home using current materials and techniques.”
The house has been altered so much, it has only a “contributing” rating on the city’s Historic Site and Structure Inventory. The hope is to restore it so it closely resembles its original state.
Ken Prince, director of planning and community development, said the city has donated vacant property in the past, but this is the first time it offered a house for the program.
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The building trades focus on home renovation was introduced last month when Chris Elmerick, building trades educator, spoke to the Common Council committee about funding from the city’s allotment of money from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Elmerick told the council committee the building trades is exploring a change to add home rehabilitation to its offerings for students.
Currently, the building trades program builds one new home per year, and, Elmerick said, with ARP money, the department could buy one or two old homes and offer students education in renovations.
When weather conditions are poor, the classes cannot work on a new build, and the class could shift to the renovation home to allow the students to have uninterrupted instruction.
A new direction
Ben Modlin, treasurer of the Mishawaka Building Trades organization, said in a letter to the city that students have been building new homes since 1978 and the program hoped to expand to teach renovation skills.
“This would be a great showcase home for our Mishawaka Building Trades Program and our continued partnership with our city and community,” Modlin said in the letter.
Efforts to reach Modlin on Friday for comment were not successful.
If approved by the city, the home sale would take place by the end of June.
Email South Bend Tribune reporter Greg Swiercz at [email protected].