Goshen seeks developers for canal homes
Posted: 07/10/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Justin Leighty
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Pedestrians are seen walking along the Mill Race Canal Trail near the old stone bridge on the north end near the trail head Monday, July 9, 2012. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
A pedestrian walks south along the Mill Race Canal Trail on Monday from near where the old stone bridge and Hawks building are located on the north end.
Truth Photos By Jennifer Shephard
Lucas Casaletto turns onto the old stone bridge from the Mill Race Canal Trail on the north end near the trail head Monday. Casaletto was using the trail on part of his ride home.
When the commission talks this afternoon about asking for proposals, though, their request will be different from the one issued in late 2008.
This time the old Hawks building isn’t part of the mix, since the commission and nonprofit housing agency LaCasa are working to develop that site into new space.
The north end of the area has been turned into a parking lot and the city’s negotiating to lease out the old NIPSCO building.
The most contentious piece of property from last time, the former Goshen Street Department site between the canal and the Elkhart River, is also not up for sale to private developers.
“That was a major change,” said Mark Brinson, community development director for the city. The earlier proposal, backed by Coachmen, called for multi-story town homes on the site between the bodies of water, but that aspect of the proposal caused public outcry that led to the commission rejecting the proposal in 2009.
“Since that time we’ve performed all the (environmental) cleanup which would’ve been required anyway, we relocated the street department and developed the River Race Advisory Committee,” Brinson said.
That committee, made up of a broad section of residents and officials, recommended the street department site remain available for public use.
What will ultimately happen there remains up in the air, whether it will be a park or whether backers of an aquatic community center idea will be able to develop a proposal, raise the money and convince the commission that the site is right for the center.
In the short term, though, the commission hopes to get proposals to develop the area along the canal between Douglas and Monroe streets.
The advisory committee last year got three firms to draft “what-if” concepts for how housing could be developed along there, just as the city’s working to move utilities and turn the alley east of the canal into a street that can serve the site.
“We are able to show potential developers some concepts,” Brinson said, but those aren’t binding. “We’re intentionally letting the developers be creative,” Brinson said.
The proposals would be opened at the commission’s Oct. 9 meeting. If no proposals come in to buy the property for at least the appraised value, Brinson said the commission could then offer it at below market value after 30 days.
Even if several bids come in at the right price, the commission can reject them if they don’t like what they see. The formal request for proposals says the city and the commission want new development to complement the Hawks building, the millrace powerhouse and the NIPSCO building and to encourage residential development that takes advantage of the canal and the historic setting.
The city has used more than $2 million in federal and state funding to clean up the area along the canal, according to Becky Hershberger, brownfields coordinator for the city. That money was to clean up after the old industries along the canal, which provided the original industrial power in the city. It was completed in 1868 when Goshen was incorporated.
Construction of the new housing should start in 2014, under the commission’s formal request for proposals.
A half-block section at the southwest corner of Third and Madison streets is also up for residential or commercial development, and it could wait until 2015 or 2016.