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.
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