By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – When it comes to spurring development, the city of Warsaw had a huge day on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
In a series of meetings, city leaders learned of progress on several fronts, including a proposed housing project on Argonne Road that would replace a longstanding eyesore and a new incentive program aimed at accelerating more economic development for businesses within city limits.
Officials also received updates on the North Buffalo Street redevelopment project as well as runway improvements at the municipal airport.
Argonne Road housing project
The redevelopment commission approved the acquisition of land associated with what was formerly known as the Arnolt property on Durbin Street, just east of Argonne Road.
The commission is now in position to work with Real America Development, a company in Indianapolis, which has proposed the construction of a 60-unit apartment complex where a dilapidated industrial site now sits along Argonne Road.
Real America will be seeking financial support through the Indiana Housing Community Development Authority.
In return, the city has expressed a willingness to demolish several buildings that are part of the property. The cost of demolition is expected to be around $200,000. No timeline for demolition was discussed.
The development would eliminate one of the biggest eyesores in the city and could be a catalyst for more development along what is now referred to as the Argonne Corridor.
The project would follow a similar tract used to finance Little Crow Lofts, said Warsaw City Planner Jeremy Skinner.
Skinner said Real America may not win funding in the current round, but predicted they will continue to seek support in future rounds if they are not successful this time.
The redevelopment commission also reviewed a new in-depth report on the potential plans for improvements within the corridor. The vision report was assembled and supported by a committee of more than a dozen people representing Warsaw, Winona Lake, Kosciusko County Economic Development Corporation (KEDCo) and others who see the corridor as a key connection between the city of Warsaw and Winona Lake.
Winona Lake and Warsaw are already working together on the construction of a roundabout where Winona Avenue, Argonne Road and Park Avenue intersect.
New revolving loan program
City Council took several steps to establish an economic development revolving loan program and already has its first client lined up.
On the advice of Mayor Joe Thallemer and Plan Director Jeremy Skinner, the council voted to establish a revolving loan program and fund it with $150,000 in money from the Economic Development Income Tax.
While a few more legal steps are needed, the council is now prepared to provide a two-year loan for $150,000 to Wishbone Medical, which is seeking to move into and renovate the old Sym Financial building at 100 Capital Drive, which is near the Kosciusko County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau office along US 30.
Thallemer and Skinner pitched the plan as another tool the city can use to help boost further development of industry in the city while letting city council have control of the program.
The plans were approved unanimously by the council Tuesday night.
Wishbone will put the $150,000 in an escrow account and use it to leverage a private loan that will be used to purchase and renovate the old Sym Financial building.
The money would be repaid after two years.
Thallemer said the city would likely appropriate more money from its EDIT fund in the future for more agreements with other companies.
Buffalo Street project
City officials met with the developer and representatives of the Regional Development Authority of Northeast Indiana for an update on the Buffalo Street redevelopment project just south of Center Lake.
RDA holds the purse strings to several million dollars tied to the Regional Cities program launched several years ago.
Matthews LLC has already constructed three townhouses on the west side of the road and will begin construction on a series of smaller residences known as mews within four to six weeks, according to Thallemer.
In addition to three types of housing being developed, the overall plan includes the construction of a plaza along the lake that will tie in with Center Lake Park as well as a multi-use building that will be developed where several vacant buildings, including the old parks office, still stand.
Thallemer said they hope to complete the plaza project by January 2021 and that construction on the mixed use building could begin next spring.
The board of aviation was told by engineers that they hope to finish renovations to to the north-south runway this year after securing funding for the project.
The board also learned the city continues to work on reducing taxes that were unexpectedly built into plans associated with the lowering of powerlines that are needed for the east-west runway.
The cost of the taxes would increase the total cost by some $600,000, but city officials say the inclusion of such costs are inappropriate for such a project with AEP.
Airport manager Nick King said the city is working with its engineers and has hired a law firm from Indianapolis that specializes in such affairs to see if the costs can be removed.
The board said the delays have not slowed down the timetable because there is a cushion built into the plans.