ELKHART — It's decided. The former Alick's Home Medical lot in the 900 block of East Jackson Boulevard will house 21 high-end condominiums, not a rowing club facility and park.
The city Redevelopment Commission, which owns the land, made the tentative decision to sell the property to Portage Place Development LLC for $100,000, thereby rejecting a proposal from the Elkhart Rowing Club, which had offered the same price.
"At the end of the day, I think the Redevelopment Commission had a tough choice in front of them. It's good to have choices for the redevelopment of Elkhart," Portage Place partner David Weaver said after the meeting.
He believes the commission made the best decision.
"The reality is, we have a housing shortage in our community, and we have to build new homes for people to live in and enjoy and continue to live and thrive in Elkhart," Weaver said.
The condominiums are expected to sell for between $300,000 and $500,000, though a final decision has not been made on prices. Portage Place Development is expected to spend between $10.1 million and $12.1 million on the project.
"We need housing in all sections of the market, and we really haven't built this type of product in our community, and we're looking forward to doing so.
Since the Redevelopment Commission approved the Portage Plan bid on the condition of continued negotiations about some details, the construction time remains somewhat uncertain, but Weaver said he hopes to begin building this year. The group has said it would finish construction in 2021.
On the losing side of the decision, Elkhart Rowing Club treasurer Tom Shoff, who thought his group would win, was disappointed.
"It hurts. It's disappointing. They came in here with a preconceived decision they were going to make, and they made it," he said.
Shoff believes the decision by the commission came down to money for the city rather than what's best for residents.
The decision leaves the rowing club with no current Plan B.
"We don't know what we're going to do at this point," Shoff said.
He said a county plan to have a rowing facility by the Six Span Bridge does not involve the Elkhart club, and that the flood plain there rules out the kind of facility Shoff and his team are hoping to build.
"We thought we had the best plan for the community. We did not want 21 individuals to have control of this property. We wanted the public to be able to enjoy it," Shoff said.
He specifically criticized the commission for not choosing the plan that had lived up to the requirement of providing public access, as stated in the commission's request for proposal.
Commission Vice President Sandie Schreiber made the motion to accept the Portage Place proposal.
"Condition being that we have further discussion about some of the contingencies," she said.
President Steve Eldridge, who later stepped down from the commission after more than 40 years of service on city boards, seconded the motion.
Schreiber and Eldridge did not specify what contingencies they wanted to discuss with the developers.
An amendment to Schreiber's motion recommended that the city hire outside help to better formulate and address the commission's concerns with the Portage Place development.
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