Mahencha Apartments

Located across from the Horace Mann High School, the 4-story Mahencha Apartments building was constructed in 1928 was considered at the time, one of the most prestigious places to live. The apartments were built mainly for city officials and U.S. Steel management. Despite urban legend, former Gary mayor A. Martin Katz was never a resident here. His son though, Michael Katz, was set to live here but was rejected because he was Jewish.

By the 70s, the conditions of the structure had declined but that didn’t stop former Gary mayor Richard Hatcher and his wife who purchased the Mahencha Apartments in 1978. The apartments were renamed to the Hatcher Apartments and would operate under that name for just six years. The Hatchers never bothered to put any into the building, either because they couldn’t or because they just didn’t want to.

The already deteriorating conditions worsened throughout these few years. Residents dealt with power issues due to faulty wiring, mold issues, water damage, and fixtures falling off the walls. These issues coupled with the financial issues forced Hatcher to shut the building down in 1984.

Reports surfaced indicating that Richard Hatcher hadn’t paid any taxes on multiple properties around Gary, including the Mahencha. In 1987, he admitted that he hadn’t paid taxes on the building since 1983, but said it was due to an appeal he had with the city tax assessor and that the taxes would be paid in full once the building is sold. He later admitted that he had tried selling the property with no luck.

Abandoned and falling apart, by the 90s, the building was rife with new issues: homeless squatters, drug addicts, thieves, vandalism, and prostitution. Wiring and pipes were ripped from the walls, windows were busted, and fixtures were destroyed.

Code enforcement issued numerous $5,000 fines due to code violation which also went unpaid along with all the unpaid taxes Hatcher already owed to the city. Hatcher tried at first by boarding up the building and having a crew sent out to clean up the trash around the property. By the following week though, the boards were already ripped off and trash littered the premises. He eventually stopped trying. With more than $56,000 owed in unpaid taxes and fines, the city had enough and seized the property in the early-90s.

The upcoming years would have many plans come about to renovate and reinvigorate the ailing structure, but they would all fall through. In the mid-1990s, the city of Gary donated the property to the Horace Mann-Ambridge Neighborhood Improvement Organization (HMANIO) whose plan was to renovate the building and would include 27 bedroom units in varying sizes from one-bedroom to three-bedroom apartments. Construction was estimated to be completed by December 1998. Estimating to cost $3 million, HMANIO was expecting to receive low-income tax credits, a historic tax credit, and $750,000 in tax-exempt housing funds from the city’s Redevelopment Commission. The funds never came through as they had planned and the whole project fell apart.

In 1999, the Redevelopment Commission approved a sale of the building to the Tree Of Life Community Development Corporation. Their plan was very similar to the previous with a renovation cost estimated at around $3.4 million. In April 2001, it was announced that Tree of Life was to receive $1 million from the Gary Board of Public Works and Safety. They had initially planned to begin repairs on the Mahencha starting with the roof, and that construction was estimated to last 12-18 months, with the apartments re-opening by 2003. This plan also fell through due to the funding never materializing.

Today, the building sits in silence awaiting another developer to come around with hopes of actually renovating it. As with many buildings left in such a state, time is of the essence and unless something is done, it’s not long until the Mahencha meets its demise.

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