ELKHART — The tale of who will win the right to develop a key piece of downtown property draws closer to its end Tuesday, as two groups present their ideas for developing the former Alick’s Home Medical property, a lot at a narrow point between the St. Joseph and Elkhart rivers.

Elkhart’s Redevelopment Commission will hear presentations from the Elkhart Rowing Club, which hopes to build a boat house, and Portage Place Development LLC, looking to construct 21 high-end condominiums.

Both groups have offered the city $100,000 for the land.

That leaves the Redevelopment Commission with a dilemma.

Elkhart needs more housing, as the city has a high number of people who work here but live elsewhere. The River District revitalization plan, which includes the Alick’s lot, calls for the creation of 1,000 new housing units or more in and around the area. 

Building new homes would potentially make it easier for Elkhart companies to find quality employees and would grow the city’s tax base. The condominiums would provide $120,000 in new property taxes annually, according the Portage Place group. 

The Elkhart Rowing Club, a not-for-profit corporation, would not directly increase the tax base, but would create an asset the city doesn’t currently have, perhaps attracting new residents to the area. 

A rowing club in central Elkhart could also help solve one issue that springs from merging Elkhart Central and Elkhart Memorial high schools in 2021, since not as many students will be able to be on the schools’ current varsity teams. The rowing club would then facilitate varsity crew, which might help some students get scholarships to colleges with crew programs, according to the rowing club.

The organization’s proposal also suggests that a boat house could help bring events and competitions such as the Head of the Elk Regatta, bringing in hospitality and sales tax revenue for the city. 

Another distinction between the two plans is that the rowing club would create a public park with access to the St. Joseph River. Portage Place would allow public view of the river from the street and provide the city with aesthetics ensuring that, “For once, students of architecture at neighboring schools will come to our town to see new and exciting buildings,” the proposal said. 

Under the Portage Place plan, each condominium would have a boat slip on the St. Joseph River.

Portage Place expects to begin its unit presale over the summer, and construction would begin after deposits are made for 11 of the condominiums. Construction would end in the spring of 2021, according to the plan. The group expects to spend between $10.1 million and $12.1 million on construction. 

Partners in the group will provide around $2.5 million for the investment and have support from lending institutions to provide the rest, according to their proposal.

The Elkhart Rowing Club expects to start construction in the spring of 2019 and finish in the fall of 2021. It is estimating construction costs just above $5 million. 

The club would rely on local donations to raise the money, and lending institutions could help see the project through, according to the proposal. 

Redevelopment Commission President Steve Eldridge said, when the commission opened bids for the lot on April 9, that it could be June before a decision is made. He said there would be two public hearings.

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter @ReadRasmus

(16) comments

fire111

This is the way it works Joe! Essentially the City is giving away the land. It is by far more valuble than $100,000. The boat people would work on donations as they stated. The condo people work as a private entity. A business. They build with capital they borrow. They sell their product. A high end condo. The condo people pay substantial taxes because the condo value is "Valuable". While the boat people are tax exempt! and STILL hoping for donations. But they would also require the broke school system to pay a toll! If ya can't afford teachers, ya can't afford skinny boats.

Joe King

again, either you didn't listen at the meeting or can't read in entirety... the rowing club was offering a percentage each year to pay the city back for the property in addition to the $100k initially... I agree the property is worth more both in terms of money and in terms of enjoyment for the entire community. The condos are not. Other than students and the coach...this was and will be a privately funded rowing club. Not relying on school money at all...not sure what fairy tail you are reading or trying to spread...

fire111

ah yes. no government money keep it that way. condos all the way.
ge9r

DHenke

I like both options however this is a financial decision. Based on financial stability the condos are the best option. I am unwilling to lose the Rowing Club option. I think we should look deeper and lessen their financial risk and couple them with another entity like the Aquatic Center, behind Central HS, CR 17, or even the McNaughton Park. If it is about having the rowing club there are several options. If however it is about the rowing club, upper St Joseph and East Jackson only, we have a problem. I am convinced we can assist the rowing club, River Queen and all involved if it is not all or nothing. The condos are self funded, not our taxpayers risk, and return tax revenue. Again, both projects are worthy however one is financially best for our city so we can continue our economic growth.

DHenke

The taxpayer has $990,000 in the property plus continued lost revenue from property tax. The rowing club, great idea, counts on the school for teams, coaches, uniforms, boats etc. The school is out of money. The rowing club allows the River Queen to park however future use 5 and ten years down the road become curious if the level of use or interest falls. When the big donors leave town the financing falls apart. The condo project keeps the high end people in our city along with their money. These are the people that provided the bulk of money for the NIPCO Ice Park, IUSB-Elkhart, the Acquatic Center, Learner, and many other city-wide projects. They need a place where most of us cannot afford but we as a city cannot afford for them to leave. Without their presence and money many future projects do not happen as these people can live anywhere and would otherwise leave the area. This is a long-term investment than remains as such 20 years later. We can assist the rowing club with another site selection and rasing continued money for their project that would also benefit many peoople. FYI, the River District has a new park at Junior Achievement Dr, with kyacking and tubing center, the expansion of Lunquest Park and the taxpayer has over $9MM in the river walkways and bridges for everyone to access and enjoy.

Joe King

wow.....did you just really say the few rich individuals are more important than the rest of the community? And that we only want them for their money? I applaud your honesty and disagree with you on the selling out of the "common folk" or peasants.... First, are you really concerned about the River Queen's viability in the next 5-10 years when it has been operating for the last 65 years? That point is kinda mute by now. The non profit group that operates it did the community a favor for saving a piece of history that just about everyone in the community has heard about or has history with the queen....except you I guess.... Those people you are referring too are also the ones backing this project...not the school.. but is a great addition to the school system since this city was founded on a river because of the river... This too is a long term investment that also brings visitors to our city...spending money at hotels, restaurants, and local businesses. I believe they have the numbers to back that claim of how much it will bring into the city... this has the potential to be huge and bring in more $ than property tax while also benefiting local business owners.The banquet/conference room can also generate revenue year around.... Unlike the the condos which...at nearly $500k will be sporadically used and vacant in the winter season. Those parks you mentioned are not on the upper st joe....but I guess you and the elite you only support are still trying to keep the working man from enjoying the upper st joe... You can build condos anywhere....why not on main st at the old armory building site for example....Here is another chance to have a public space for the entire community to enjoy....and you prefer only the rich few people.... disappointing.

fire111

Wow! Not a rational thought from Joe. It's very simple. The City has almost a million in the property. It would behoove the City to get a return ASAP. And continual tax income is a plus. Parks don't pay taxes. Nor schools or tax exempts. And still no connection how money to hotels, or local establishments provide tax revenue. And Joe you do understand condos pay taxes ALL YEAR. They are not like a trailer for sale or rent! Very very strange!

Joe King

and a typical response from Fire thinking inside the box as usual. The rowing club is offering to pay the city the 100k and continue for the next several years until the city recoups its money...the condos...not so much.... and the condos don't want any people from the community enjoying the river unless your an owner....pretty disgraceful keeping the public out unless you drop the 500k for the unit...You can build expensive condos for the rich to use 6 months of the year anywhere.... all the out of town visitors will have a huge economic impact and the tourism council shared the numbers at the meeting... those people spend money at hotels...hotel tax, and money at local businesses making the owners and employees see more dollars in their pocket to spend.... This really is a no brainer...the entire community, the school system, local owners all see gains with a rowing club and their events....let alone booking a private party overlooking the river if you want too....

fire111

Wow! Rich/man poor man scenario. I got it Joe! I know of 7 sites for public use on the upper St Joe from CR 17 to Elkhart. The land in question is well worth more than $100,000. That's why people buy homes on the river, demolish them, and build anew! Property tax on 21 units should be well over $100,000. People like you see shiny objects and have to have them. Remember the referendum just voted on. The City schools told us they couldn't hire good teachers. No money. But you want to bring in another sport that can not support it self. Sound business move. Good luck Joe! And really Joe! How many poor people were enjoying the river before the city acquired it?

Seven

Assuming that the rowing club obtained the property, the meets would cause a huge traffic problem for the out of town guests and the residents of that area. That was a complaint in the past. Condos would generate property tax income and would not add very much additional traffic congestion.

Seven

How about having a licensed appraiser appraise the property then putting it up for sale at current market value? I suspect that the property is worth more than $100,000.00

Joe King

I like the rowing club. I think it serves the community and more importantly MORE of the community then 21 condos.... they at least are putting in a park and public access for people where the condos don't think it would serve their interest...their words, not mine.. The property tax difference can easily be made up by all the out of town guest that would come to stay at our local hotels and use the restaurants while competing here. I remember how busy it was in the past with the competition races held here. You can build condos anywhere....

fire111

Good thinking Joe! Turn down the high property tax money. I'll be darned it I can figure out how the City could recoup that lost tax. Out of town visitors don't pay taxes. The City doesn't need more parks! They give them away. They just gave one to the county. And how about the one on west Indiana (CR16)? Didn't the City close that one? And heck Joe a couple of years ago they wanted to get rid of Heaton Lake Waterpark. Oh and the BIGGY! Sims OAK HILL Golf Course. Good idea though. Public access and all! Hey ya know Joe there is a public access in about the 3000 block of Greenleaf. Let's open that up!

Joe King

Had you been present, you would have heard the offer of the rowing club to donate a portion of its revenue profits back to the city to pay what the city has in the property. But all the blisters and crew teams and their families would come to watch the event, stay in hotels and eat at restaurants and spend money here. There was an economic report done on when this happened in the past...it would be more than the property tax revenue plus a benefit to the school system and the entire community. The condos said, no park or public space.. it will benefit only 21 units...so maybe 40-50 people? There are no parks or public space of any size on the upper st joe. What a great ideal to open it to others....and even a bonus, the river queen could use that spot too..it’s a win win...

fire111

Wow 21 units @ $200,000 . After exemptions about $42,000 $50,000 a year taxes. As I said before Joe. The City has more parks than the can handle now. The City wouldn't be getting rid of them if they could afford them. And isn't that River Queen thingy a private entity. And you still have not explained how $s spent by tourists at private businesses turns into tax money for the City!

Wellinformed

Thumbs down on both options. Put a nice restaurant there with river view dining.

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