Some might have looked at the Delaware Court Apartments in Anderson and seen a building destined for the wrecking ball, but Cory Mendez saw the potential for a good investment.
The apartments, at the northeast corner of 10th Street and Brown-Delaware, opened in 1926 and remained open until late 2013. Since their closure, the three buildings have been home to vagrants and a target for graffiti artists and people looking for scrap metal. A pair of fires in 2015, possibly caused by arson, left minor damage.
Mendez is the owner of Fort Wayne-based Triton Investment LLC, and his brother Chris, owns Fort Wayne-based Alpha Construction LLC, which is doing much of the renovation work.
Mendez bought the property early this year from a holding company. Work on rehabilitating the three buildings, containing 43 apartments, started in May. He's hoping to open the apartments for tenants by the end of the year.
The name will remain the Delaware Court Apartments with three buildings on a courtyard that faces Tenth Street. The estimated cost to refurbish the apartments is estimated at $1 million, not including the purchase price. The complex has 40 one- and two-bedroom apartments and three units that could be either three or four bedrooms.
Mendez said they obtained the original blueprints from the Madison County Historical Society, which has helped with door sizes and the location of the original steel frames.
Mendez said the two brothers have done some residential rehabilitation projects in the past and decided to tackle a commercial development.
"There has been a change in the culture," he said. "People are looking to move back to the downtown areas. We saw this as a good investment.
"We have talked to a lot of local people," he added. "These apartments were considered high-end when it first opened."
The work started with replacing or repairing the existing windows because the Downtown Historical and Cultural Commission wouldn't allow vinyl windows to be used in the historic structure.
Recently, work was being done replacing drywall in the apartments. Electrical and plumbing work is expected to start in a few weeks.
Mendez said the hope is to be able to maintain some of the natural wood used in the original apartments.
Chris Mendez said the first step was securing the building to keep people out. He said before making the purchase, they looked at everything and found the a solid foundation and well-constructed buildings.
"There is a need for housing in Anderson," Cory Mendez said. "We made sure the building was structurally sound and then negotiated the purchase price."
The two brothers are keeping their options open on possible other projects in Anderson, including Beverly Terrace and the Tower Apartments, although it seems others are already involved in those projects.
"We have a business partner in Miami (Florida) that is interested in these investments," Cory Mendez said. "We grew up flipping houses together."
Greg Winkler, executive director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, said the interest in the downtown Anderson housing market is growing.
He said an investor is preparing to resume work on the Tower Apartments on Jackson Street, and a group of local investors is going to tackle Beverly Terrace on Main Street. Both of those apartments also date to the 1920s or early 1930s.
"It's starting to tip," Winkler said of the interest of investors in the downtown area. "The Oakley Brothers Distillery is going to attract people to the downtown (and) that will attract other businesses."