SOUTH BEND — Eric Stalheim spoke at length and with conviction in April when he condemned the city's planned demolition of the former South Bend Brewing Association building, saying the move harkened back to the "inglorious tradition" of urban renewal that gutted downtown decades ago.

Last week while watching its rear side be reduced to a pile of rubble, the past member of the South Bend-St. Joseph County Historic Preservation Commission articulated his emotions in a single word: "Depression."

The city will pay nearly $786,000 to Jackson Demolition Services for the firm to tear down the historic building at 1636 Lincoln Way West and take tons of brick, wood and glass to a landfill, according to Acting Director of Community Investment Caleb Bauer. The cleanup is to be finished by the second week of July.

South Bend: Investor on hook for demo fees of at least 60 times what he paid for historic building

That sum alone exceed the city's normal annual budget for demolition, which Bauer said is $550,000. But the budget for 2022 allots a whopping $4.2 million to tear down two other large, vacant commercial buildings that Mayor James Mueller called "some of the worst eyesores in South Bend" in his State of the City address.

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The emergency demolition of the Brewing Association building especially has drawn criticism from historic preservation advocates, who see it as an instance of South Bend leaders choosing to sacrifice a piece of the city's heritage rather than continuing to promote its potential for reuse.

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