Developer David Matthews recently shared with me a breakdown of price points for his three types of homes that will be part of the Buffalo Street project.
The first phase of townhouses is already under construction. The next step will be a series of mews, smaller homes that will be adjacent the townhouses on the street’s west side. Larger, “city homes” will eventually be constructed on the east side of Buffalo and south of the future mixed-use building.
The mews will be between 1,200 to 1,500 square feet and cost roughly between $180,000 to $220,000; The townhouses will have 2,000 to 3,000 square feet and will be priced in the $300,000 and $400,000 price range. The city homes, from 4,000 square feet and up, will include private backyards and garages, which will be in the $700,000 price range.
Construction of the mews is tentatively slated to begin this winter, if possible.
Matthews said he wants to see the west side of the street further developed first so that prospective buyers of the bigger homes on the east side will have an idea of what the neighborhood will look like.
Construction of the city homes are still one or two years away from beginning, he said.
As upscale housing begins to develop, the city is striving to improve affordable housing. Officials can point to the success of the Little Crow Lofts and a senior housing project on Market that is just now getting underway.
The city is also banking on the upcoming release of a study that will identify gaps in the housing market that need to be addressed. At the same time, officials are working to develop two residential TIF districts that will be used to entice housing developers by providing much of the infrastructure normally covered by the private sector.
The challenge to spur the growth of affordable housing and meeting a steep demand for all types of housing is obvious to everyone.
City Plan Director Jeremy Skinner is well aware of the struggles. HPG ….., The same group that is doing the upcoming study, also recently released an 11-county study on housing needs that included Kosciusko County.
Based sheerly on Kosciusko County’s share of that 11-county population, the study suggests the county would need to see an average of 700 homes constructed every year to meet the need, according to Skinner who mentioned it to a small group who attended Wednesday’s TIF meeting at Eisenhower Elementary.
Construction of new homes this year in Warsaw is a little more than 40 or so.
A day later, at a similar meeting at Harrison Elementary, Skinner said he heard from a representative of an existing apartment complex who told him they are at 97 percent capacity and get about 20 calls a day from people looking for apartments.
I asked Mayor Joe Thallemer if he’s heard any criticism about the emerging upscale housing on Buffalo Street in light of the price points. He said the city never suggested homes on Buffalo would be marketed as affordable. “The idea is to attract talent for Zimmer Biomet. You’re looking at engineers, professional folks and accountants,” he said Friday.
“I haven’t heard any blowback … we’re just creating some housing that Warsaw does not have,” Thallemer said.
The entire development, including the multi-use building, is expected to be in the $25 million range, which is being covered by Matthews. The developer, Thallemer said, “is the one who is sticking his neck out.”
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TIF REACTION — The city’s residential TIF district proposals are not generating much public interest. The first two meetings this week attracted less than 15 people combined. Among those attending were District 2 city candidates Josh Finch and Chris Plack.
Both had similar reactions about the plans.
Finch, a Republican, offered the following impression: “I think it’s a low-risk high reward opportunity for the city to use as a tool to spark new private-public partnerships and new economic activity in a region that may not otherwise see it, and by doing that, widen its tax base.
Plack, running as an independent, had this to say: “I’m a fan. But the point of this is to lower the tax rate by expanding the tax base to bring our taxes down, which requires that our city government continue to maintain or lower the budget. If we increase the tax base and use that as an excuse to start increasing our budget and tax rates stay the same or increase, this is all for naught.”
Plack said he thinks there is some fat in the city budget that could be cut. He declined to provide specifics but said he would do so before the Nov. 5 election.
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CHANGING OF THE GUARD — The city has a new parking enforcement officer patrolling the downtown. Jack Marshall has retired after three years and is being replaced by Mason Sumner.
Acknowledging that the job of handing out parking tickets can sometimes tick off people, Marshall began wearing a vest cam two years ago in case anyone became too belligerent. I’m guessing he did not have to use it very often. Marshall previously worked as a battalion chief with Marion Fire Department and is a former business owner who brought his customer service skills to the job every day.
The InkFreeNews staff, many of whom received a few tickets over the years from Marshall, wish him well in his retirement. He’s certainly one of the good guys.
Dan Spalding is the editor of InkFreeNews.com.
He covers city government and politics and always welcomes your input.
He can be reached at [email protected] or at (574) 855-7612.