Chase Tower buyer shares plans for property


Picture this - a Wyndham Hotel, 40 high end condos and at least two brand new restaurants in downtown South Bend. An East Coast developer says he's going to make it happen in the Chase Tower. In fact, when WSBT asked the Washington D.C. man when he plans to begin the $35 million renovation project, he laughed and said it's already happening.

Cedric Franklin, the CEO of Harley Stanfield Global Corporation, said a local architect is already drawing up plans, a New Jersey builder's been hired and Franklin said he's already spending money on the building's elevators.

But he hasn't signed on the dotted line just yet.

According to court documents, Harley Stanfield and The Janee Hotel Corporation of Delaware have entered into the agreement to buy the Chase Tower for $5.2 million. The building would be debt free at the closing of the purchase.

The property's problems have stared South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the face every day since he took office nearly two years ago. Even though a plan is in the works for the two companies to buy it, Buttigieg said he's not ready to celebrate.

"We've been here before," he said of other potential sales on the Chase that have fallen through in the past. "So it's not quite time to reach for the champagne and cigars yet. But it does look like we have a very serious and credible buyer."

Buttigieg also won't talk about how much taxpayer money the city may commit to spending if the deal goes through.

"The city's doing what we can to be supportive of progress," he added. "Of course, you don't want to conduct all of the business details over television."

Franklin told WSBT he's negotiating potential incentives with the city, including an economic development bond agreement. He also said he's in talks with the city to potentially buy the parking garage attached to the building.

The investor, who said he is the sole investor at this point, also claims he has the $35 million to retro-fit the building with solar and alternative energy sources.

"The design of the building will be fully state-of-the-art. There's nothing that the finest building in Chicago has to impress you that will not be in this one," Franklin added.

In 2009, named his company one of the top 10 in the country for revenue growth. He made his fortune buying residential homes near major colleges and universities, making them more energy efficient then selling them. Right now he owns one of the largest wind farm projects in the United States and said buying the Chase Tower just makes sense.

"It's a 25 story structure that the structural engineering firm we hired and decided was structurally sound and the price," he laughed.

Alongside the condos he plans to lease, Franklin also said the top floor of the Chase - that used to be home to The Summit Club - would also be what's called a trading platform. He described it as an "investor's casino" that opens at 9 on Sunday nights and stays open around the clock until 5 p.m. on Fridays.

Inside, business people would be able to trade any stock, commodity or currency around the world.

Major construction could begin next year, he said, but it's not clear if the businesses inside the Chase Tower would be able to stay open during construction.

Franklin is set to close on the building November 30. He missed the first closing deadline on October 30.