Huntingburg Wagon Works development completes final local steps

Sourced from Dubois County Free Press

The Huntingburg Common Council took three steps to push the new Wagon Works housing development along its path to becoming a reality during the regular meeting Tuesday.

The Wagon Works project will bring 56 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments on Washington Street near St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Along with the apartments, the development will include amenities like bike racks, fenced in dog-walking area and picnic area.

The apartments will range in price from $230 to $600 and income based.

First, the council approved the creation of an economic revitalization area and the tax abatement request from Paragus Group for 100 percent abatement for ten years after holding the required public hearing.

Paragus Group is the developer the City of Huntingburg chose after submitting requests for housing proposals as part of the Stellar Community program. In responding to the request for proposals, Paragus included the 100 percent tax abatement as a necessary component for any workforce housing development they proposed.

With the approval, the abatement will offset about $28,000 in property taxes annually and is capped at $325,000. If the property taxes abated reach that amount before the ten-year period has passed, property taxes would begin to be collected on the $5.8 million development.

Although no one remonstrated against the planned development and tax abatement during the public hearing, a neighbor to the former Wagon Works property did comment on the impact the demolition has had on her home. Washington Street resident Pamela Vaughn told the council that since the factory was demolished last week, her nearby house has been infested with mice. Vaughn stated the mice were destroying her personal property in the home and were a major nuisance.

Mayor Denny Spinner took down Vaughn’s personal information and said he would pass along her complaint to the construction company involved in the demolition as well as the owner of the property, OFS Brands. OFS Brands is demolishing the property as part of the deal it has with Paragus group.

The second step required the council to amend the downtown revitalization plan to include the development of workforce housing as part of the package necessary for Paragus to obtain workforce housing tax credits through the state. The amendment expands the downtown revitalization area to include the Paragus Development. The new map downtown revitalization map borders are now marked by Chestnut Street on the west, 7th Street on the north, 1st Street on the south and Shelby Street on the east.

The council approved the amendment unanimously.

According to Gary Ritz of Paragus, the developer hopes to receive $550,000 to $650,000 in rental housing tax credits that are available through the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority. $1.5 million in these credits has been set aside for Stellar Community projects which allows Paragus and other Stellar Communities to compete for them on a much smaller playing field. At this point, Paragus may only be competing for those tax credits with two other Stellar Communities if they submit packages by the November 6.

Paragus will find out if the project is approved Feb. 15, 2018.

For the third step, the council approved considering the vacation of a portion of Elm Street that goes through the middle of the development property. The vacation will only occur if the project receives the approval from the state on the tax credits. Currently, Elm Street is not an improved street in Huntingburg’s paved street inventory. If the street is vacated, another portion of the property will be donated to the city to reroute Elm Street for the nearby homeowners.

If Paragus Group receives the tax credits from the state, construction on the apartments could begin in late summer of 2018. It would take about 15 months to complete so the new apartments would open in late 2019.