Changes coming for eyesore building

For years, residents and motorists have complained about the cracked parking lot, the weeds growing up through the asphalt and the building that remains vacant.

Now, a former grocery store at a major Whiteland intersection soon could be redeveloped.

A company is interested in transforming the 1.8-acre property on the northwest corner of U.S. 31 and Whiteland Road into a restaurant and possibly retail shops or office space.

Nothing has been proposed or approved by the town, but a restaurant owner is interested in moving in, town manager Norm Gabehart said. The name of the restaurant cannot be released at this time, but a proposal could come before the town council in August or September, he said.

The original 24,000-square-foot building is still standing, but plans for the property are that the restaurant would be on the corner of U.S. 31 and Whiteland Road, and another building would be constructed behind the restaurant, Gabehart said. No blueprints of the design, including whether the existing building would be renovated or torn down, have been released.

Since purchasing the property in 2013, the Allen Commercial Group has talked to multiple companies about moving into the vacant building, director of leasing John Cunningham said. Business owners have wanted to do anything from tear down the existing building, renovate the structure or keep the building as-is, Cunningham said.

Multiple offers are being considered, and a new restaurant is no more of a possibility than others that are being discussed, he said.

The 1.8-acre property could accommodate up to seven storefronts, or remain one larger store as it was used in the past, Cunningham said.

The building, which used to be a grocery store, has been vacant since 2002. For years, residents and council members have wanted someone to fix up or tear down the building and move something in. In a survey of Whiteland residents within the last year, this was a top location that residents wanted to see beautified in the town. Last year, the town ordered Allen Commercial Group to tear down a dilapidated awning, paint the building façade, remove rotted wood paneling and secure the building so people couldn’t get inside.

Retail stores and restaurants would be the best businesses to move onto the property, based on what Whiteland needs and what would thrive there, Cunningham said. He has talked to large chain retailers and big box stores, but has also talked to local residents who want to open a business there or companies in Greenwood or Columbus that want to open another location in the area, he said.

A judge ordered that the property be sold to new owners in 2012. The property used to be owned by Carole Buck and Wabash College. Three years ago, Wabash College sued to force a sale of the property, and it took nearly a year for the property to be auctioned off. Allen Commercial Group purchased the property for $675,000, and wanted to have a business moved in within a year.