Former Alick's site could cost taxpayers more

Illustration provided Before developers can begin construction of high-end condominiums in the 900 block of Jackson Boulevard, it appears to be necessary to drive helical pears into the ground. That cost would fall on the city.

ELKHART — As local developers prepare to build high-end condominiums at the former Alick’s property on Jackson Boulevard, the taxpayers could end up with a $350,000 bill to make the ground ready for construction.

The City Council will vote Monday to appropriate that amount from the city’s Capital Outlay Fund. It will then be up to the Redevelopment Commission to decide whether the city should spend the money and allow Portage Place Development to move ahead with the condominiums.

Portage Place Development bid $100,000 earlier this year to buy the land from the Redevelopment Commission, and the bid was tentatively approved. Both sides had conditions, and one of the developers’ conditions was that the property would be ready for construction. That is why the city could end up with this bill, said Mayor Tim Neese’s chief of staff, Bradley Tracy.

Tom Shoff, a security company owner and treasurer of the Elkhart Rowing Club, which had its $100,000 for the same property rejected, said he thinks it is unfair that the city, and not the developers, have to pay this bill. Shoff is also president of the St. Joseph River Association.

The Alick’s property is located in the 900 block of Jackson Boulevard on a narrow piece of land between the St. Joseph and Elkhart rivers.

According to Tracy and Shoff, the property needs helical piers – essentially very large screws — because organic material underground makes the site unstable for construction. 

Should the City Council or the Redevelopment Commission decide not to spend the $350,000, the land could go out for bid again if Portage Place Development chooses to withdraw. That could give the Elkhart Rowing Club a new chance to buy the land. 

However, according to Tracy, the same helical piers that need to go into the ground for the condominiums would have to be used for the rowing club’s proposed boathouse.

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus

(21) comments

DHenke

Joe you are a sad story to most people. Bless your heart for trying. Investing into private ventures has a huge tax payback allowing our municipality to pay for social services, Parks and quality of life. Without the first you can't afford the second. Then anytime there is financial mismanagement we will step in. The Tolson is better than before with growth on the horizon. The COA also was caught in the Tolson fiasco. Facts matter

Joe King

You’ve proven my point....no oversight in this Council when it comes to spending money for private companies to make money....this, mad Anthony’s, the River district....when it comes to funding their buddies, they are all in....what else are we going to fund for them?

Joe King

Where are all those fiscal republicans that scream at funding the tolsen or parks or the council on aging??? When it comes to funding private developers; they always remain silent or are 100% on board.....

Seven

Are there any other alternatives to the piers? I’ve read that the problem was decayed trees or volcanic ash. How far down is this? Could this be dug out and replaced with fresh dirt?

Bakerlaw

Why would the city of Ellkhart choose to give $350,000 of taxpayer dollars to the developer of 20 or so high end condominiums so the condos can get built to make the developer a profit? How is that a good use of taxpayer funds? How does that $350,000 expenditure better our city? Last but not least, when would the city break even in receipt of property taxes to get back that investment ?

DHenke

Regardless of the buyer or build piers would be needed. The city is financially on the hood as the Redevelopment Commission agreement promised buildable property. The site was found to have volcanic ash which will not hold weight so we have sunk cost in this property. The condos will have a near 15 year pay back on the nearly $1MM sunk cost. Again the initial cost is already in the land. The best financial outcome is the highest cost build based on the tax return to the taxpayers.

Joe King

You can build on the property. It’s been cleared. It’s an empty lot. As to what you build and how you do it it ups to the developers. The existing buildings were not sinking. Just because the condos want to go higher up, doesn’t mean the city has to pay for it. Why didn’t the builders do their due diligence or do core samples before offering a bid? The city has already fulfilled obligation.

fire111

That Joe guy is now a structural engineer! Did you inspect those buildings Joe? Did the home owner allow you to inspect their foundations? But you are correct Joe! The city does not have to pay for it!

Joe King

I hope the developers don't want to put in a 2 story deep basement....they may want the city to lower or move the river.....

Tom Butler

You are correct Joe King. The long history of Elkhart City buying high and selling low with property development is the biggest waste of tax dollars that we can correct with the election of a new Council with the fiscal leadership required to protect the interests of taxpayers over already wealthy outside development interests. If you think this is bad - Look at the history of the Miles Laboratory facility. Untold millions were wasted there through cleanup costs followed by multiple iterations of the City buying high and selling low and then later buying back high for the over build of an obsolete central design for the new Public Safety Facility.

Joe King

So true...time to clean house and get rid of the establishment looking out for themselves and their sponsors....and bring in fresh faces that represent the people...

Tom Shoff

The Elkhart Rowing Club's Boathouse would also need helical piers but not of the magnitude the High-end condos require. The Rowing Club would also not expect the taxpayers of this community to bear the cost. We encourage all interested citizens to contact your city council person and voice your concerns also consider attending the City Council meeting this coming Monday at 7:00 pm.

Joe King

What a joke.....The developers want everything for free.....the city bought it for $800,000. Paid to demolish and remove old buildings....now the developer, who offered $100k (not sure if they paid it or not) wants the city to pay more? Come on...its apart of the construction of the building.... The developer also doesn't want a public access even though that was a part of the mandate for the site.... Enough is enough....cut them off, and open it up for bidding or take the 2nd bidder....

fire111

So you do know Joe that this rowing club thingy would be tax exempt. Not only is it fed tax exempt it is property tax exempt! Nice thing about the rowing club, it leaves a berth for the River Queen. Would that berth be paid for and also pedestrian parking for the River Queen be collected. I'd bet free! Maybe a letter or even a telephone call to the River Queen rental collection agency @ 722 Middleton Road, could clear that problem up. Oh and by the way Joe! If you are so interested in public access to the St Joseph river....about the 3400 block of Greenleaf hiding in plain site, a little 8x8 sign says public access! Been there for years. So I say. To be fair the City should buy the adjoining lot. Put in a boat ramp black top parking and pic nic tables and BBQ grills. How's that Joe?

sidearm

Good idea Fire but not enough room to park trucks with boat trailers. It would however be a good spot to launch canoes and kayaks but parking would still be limited.

Joe King

what does the rowing club have to do with this? This is about a private group asking the city and tax dollars to help with construction....its simple...surely even you would be against that? But, since you brought it up....all the traveling crew teams, the national and international team that would travel here for events, practice, etc....they would be staying in local hotels, buying stuff at local businesses, and eating at local restaurants. And, the school system would have another sport for the kids and it ties in nicely to the river district....Even more, it would be a great public access for the public....The river queen is an asset for the city, tourism, and has a lot of history. Not too many citys can say they have a River queen boat.... Just another way to show off the city, on the river, that was founded because of the river...

Tom Shoff

Hello "fire111" The Elkhart River Queen would have continued to be docked at the same berth she has been at for 70 years 110 Bowers Court. We pay rent for that dock space. Had the Rowing Club been chosen to develop the Alick's site, on sailings when we had a large group then she would pull up to the Alick's dock to load and unload passengers. Yes the Rowing Club is a 501c3 but we presented facts to show significant economic impact dollars being brought into the city. The 21 condominiums when full sold would only bring $125k in property taxes to the city per year. It would take 12-15 for the city to recoup their investment. Also per the Condo groups proposal they would only have to pay the $100K bid when they are "profitable" And as Joe mentioned the have no public access in their plans going against the RFP. The Rowing Club would have paid $100k at once and then over 10 year paid back the other $700K.

sidearm

It is not the developers fault that the city paid too much for the site and did no due diligence for the condition of the land. Once again you are are blaming the rich Joe. Why did Mayor Moore, a Democrat like you, pay so much for the land?

Joe King

stay focused....try to at least...this is about a developer that won a bid to build condos on a piece of land. Now, the developer wants the city to foot some of the construction cost....is it really that hard to understand? Kinda like another mad anthony's deal... enough is enough....the city and out tax dollars are not in the business to make private people more money..... either build it or don't...but don't ask us to pay for it too

fire111

Here we go Joe. The property WAS up for bid! The way I understand the bids were the same. Hmmmm….how does THAT happen? So that 2nd bid was the rowers Joers! So I am the first one to say I know nothing about competitive rowing! I do however know this! While working for the city at least 1 hour a day was a requirement of daily exercise and I chose speed walking and Concept II rowing. It's a behind kicker. So what I found was the closet high school it a rowing program was the Culver Academies in Culver Indiana. I suspect they are able to support a program when they charge exorbitant fees for their schooling. Did find some private Indy schools with programs! New shells can run $25,000 and up. Used dinged up one less expensive! In a day and age where when school taxes are far and above what it takes to run a city of Elkhart's size...tax $$$$$ are few and far between. So those homes and their taxes are a year long thing. As little as $63,000 or a max @ of $735,000, depending on configurations!

sidearm

You try to keep up Joke. The land was for sale for many years with no interest. The city over paid for the the property, tore the buildings down adding more cost and then guaranteed the site was buildable through the redevelopment commission. How is any of that the developers fault?

As for rowing clubs using the hotels, probably not. When the Olympic rowers practiced here years ago they were housed by volunteers in private homes. That would most likely be the case again.

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