Shell building

City and county leaders, developers and buildings pose for a photo at the launch ceremony for Kendallville’s forthcoming shell building at the corner of Ohio Street and Weston Avenue. The event was held at nearby Hidden Ego Event and Recreation Center due to rain sweeping the city Thursday afternoon.

KENDALLVILLE — It was a little soggy out Thursday afternoon for a traditional groundbreaking, so local leaders, developers and builders instead celebrated the upcoming launch of construction of Kendallville’s shell building in drier conditions.

At the Hidden Ego Event and Recreation Center, about two dozen gathered to launch construction of the $2.2 million investment that economic development leaders hope will quickly turn into much more when a company buys, builds out and occupies the building.

The construction site is just south of the Lippert facility on Weston Avenue — formerly known as Wolfpack Chasis — and across from Reliable Tool and Machine and its solar field. The west side of the property runs up against the East Noble transportation and technology building currently undergoing renovation.

With rain sweeping Kendallville Thursday afternoon, the groundbreaking party skipped the site and the ceremonial shovels for a bit of roof cover at the nearby Hidden Ego.

“We have a great building going up right over there,” Noble County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Gary Gatman said, gesturing toward the lot and joking that rain on a wedding day was a sign of good luck so why not here too?

For new construction, the site is about as shovel-ready as a site could get — hence why shovels will hit the ground only about a month after the project was even announced publicly.

The developer already owned the lot, which requires little ground work since it’s flat and also has all of the needed utilities right there as they’re serving the nearby businesses.

That’s made for a speedy development phase, with construction able to launch right now with hopes of the shell being done by January.

Builders said work is expected to start as soon as next week with initial clearing before foundations go down and steel beams go up.

The shell building will be a $2.2 million structure covering 75,000 square feet with 30-foot tall ceilings. The project is being built on speculation of future industrial development and economic development officials expect the building could sell fast and be filling with a new firm quickly after its completion.

A shell building is just like it sounds, the shell of an industrial business location. The building will be built initially with a concrete floor, four walls, a roof and some other utility connections, but would otherwise be left open until the building is sold.

The building should give Noble County one strong lead on new site selection leads, as Gatman has previously said the county typically has to pass on upward of 80% of leads due to lack of buildings or sites that meet the qualifications.

“It’ll put all of our opportunities on the table,” Gatman said of the forthcoming shell building.

Developer Drew Wellborn, who has teamed up with Leatherman Construction to do the building, said his firm has completed multiple development projects in Kendallville — including the former Wolpack plant which is why he owns the lot being developed for the shell building — and is looking ahead to another successful addition to the city.

“It’s going to be a great project,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to a successful project.

“It’s good to see everyone come together and I expect it to be a win-win for us,” Wellborn said.

Kendallville granted a 10-year tax break on the new real property development to help defray the tax cost of the building over the first decade, among other local financial support.

The modified schedule on that abatement has a 0% tax rate for the first two years, before taxes phase-in progressively over the remaining eight.

The modern-sized shell building should instantly become Noble County’s best prospect and will likely rise to one of the top sites available in all of northeast Indiana.

After being sold, the building will then be finished out to the needs of tenant and that finishing process is likely to add upward of another $1 million in investment to the building, then new equipment and new jobs when whatever firm moves in.

Mayor Suzanne Handshoe made a bold prediction that the building could see as quickly as six months, as there’s already pent-up industrial demand not being filled.

“We have people calling on us now,” she said.

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