Construction on the Ridley Tower apartments is complete. The former Marion National Bank building, built in 1916, was on the 10 most endangered historic building list until restoration began in 2018. Staff photo by Jaylan Miller
Construction on the Ridley Tower apartments is complete. The former Marion National Bank building, built in 1916, was on the 10 most endangered historic building list until restoration began in 2018. Staff photo by Jaylan Miller
The three-year construction on the Ridley Tower apartments have come to an end.

“Now that we’re getting near the end of the process, the building has proven that it was worth saving,” said the building owner Mike Halstead.

Ridley Tower, formerly the Marion National Bank built in 1916, sat empty for many years and was put on Indiana Landmarks’ 10 most endangered historic buildings list in 2017.

Halstead bought the building in 2018 with the goal of filling it with market-rate apartments and local businesses.

Today, the building houses 29 newly-renovated apartments, Ashley’s Ice Cream Shop, Jigsaw Junction, Obi’s Barbeque, Allstate insurance and F C Tucker Realty Center offices.

The process took Halstead longer than he had hoped due to issues finding a bank to invest in the project. He said the banks did not believe the apartments would succeed.

“They were wrong,” he said.

Local retirees, college students, high school teachers, recent college graduates and other community members will move into the space after the final inspection on Sept. 7.

Halstead said he hopes to fill the remaining 11 units by winter.

Though the project was difficult, Halstead said he believes investing in the downtown area will pay off.

“It’s one of the most beautiful buildings in the country and nobody wanted it, and the price was right,” he said. “Had I known all the hurdles I was going to face in financing, it’s probably 50/50 whether I would do it again, but now that we are at this stabilization point, some of those troubles don’t feel quite as daunting as they did at the time.”

Having about 50 people living in the building will likely bring business to the downtown area.

“They’ve got to go somewhere to get coffee, lunch, a beer, hardware, grocery, all those things,” he said.

Since opening Obi’s Barbeque has had twice as much business as they were expecting when they opened.

“In the first year they are already just booming,” Halstead said. “I think it says a lot about Marion that we do have the capacity to improve the downtown and restore things and make it vital.”

Halstead’s team is currently working to renovate two buildings on Gallatin Street, formerly the Dan Mar Apartments, to house seniors.

“Come next year, we could have 150 to 200 people living downtown,” he said. “That will have a huge impact on all those other things springing up.”

Halstead said Marion has the potential to revitalize in the same way Fountain Square did. Twenty-two years ago, Halstead and his wife purchased a building in Fountain Square, and over the years have watched the area develop into a thriving cultural arts district.

“When I bought the building there it was a dump. Nobody wanted property there.

There was no one there. Most of the buildings were abandoned, storefronts closed,” Halstead said.

When Halstead bought the property in Fountain Square, a lot was selling for $2,500. Today, they sell for $125,000.

Marion is a unique location because it is a national historic district, houses the city and county buildings, is located near a river, the Cardinal Greenway Trail, and is within 10 minutes of three universities.

“Why wouldn’t Marion work?” Halstead said. “It’s because no one wanted to take the risk.”
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