The third time was the charm for the Michigan City Artspace project.
On Thursday morning, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority selected the project labeled “Uptown Artist Lofts” as one of 15 projects statewide to receive tax credits necessary to make what numerous Michigan City officials, residents and business owners had been dreaming of for years a reality.
“We are really thrilled about this,” said Carolyn Saxton, executive director of the Lubeznik Center for the Arts. “We’ve been involved in the process since the beginning and actually brought the idea of Artspace to the city a few years ago and have been working on it with them since then.”
The project, which plans to install 44 artist lofts in the historic Warren Building at 717 Franklin Street, suffered a pair of setbacks in 2012 and 2013 when the IHCDA did not select the project as one to be funded.
The IHCDA has a “qualified allocation plan” that takes into account a certain set of criteria and assesses a point total to each project. This year, 44 projects submitted applications and Michigan City’s Artspace plan received a total of 159.50, the fifth highest point total of the 15 that were approved.
The IHCDA board of directors voted on which projects would be approved after a recommendation from staff members who looked into the criteria, IHCDA spokesperson Emily Duncan said.
“We allocated about $12.1 million in tax credits and an additional $5.25 million in supplemental IHCDA funding that included other sources outside of tax credits but still under the umbrella of the IHCDA,” Duncan said.
Duncan added that the Artspace project received “a lot of local attention” and received $988,013 in tax credits and $400,000 in supplemental funding. Those are yearly numbers that will be spread out over 10 years, with the total value of tax credits for the project being somewhere near $10 million. The credits requested to fund the project were identical to the amount allotted for Artspace.
Indiana Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, who chairs the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) said the rental tax credit program “is an effective way to leverage private investment to provide affordable housing in communities throughout Indiana. The projects approved today demonstrate how the program can be used to rehab existing apartments, convert abandoned commercial structures to apartments or fund new construction. Many of these projects also support larger community development and neighborhood stabilization efforts.”
Saxton said a collective “Wahoo!” was heard from the Lubeznik staff Thursday when they heard the good news from Mayor Ron Meer.
“This award confirms what we have believed throughout this journey, that Michigan City, Indiana is the next great economic opportunity on Lake Michigan,” Meer said upon hearing the news. “I would like to thank Governor Pence, Lt. Governor Ellspermann, and the IHCDA for this award of tax credits and for recognizing the important revitalization opportunities in downtown Michigan City.”
Meer also thanked State Senator Jim Arnold, calling this “a team effort.”
“We are beaming with pride in Michigan City to be the first Artspace project in the state of Indiana,” he said.
Michigan City At-Large Councilman Tim Bietry made the initial call to invite Artspace to Michigan City in 2008 when he was chief of the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce, which led to a pre-development contract with Artspace, the largest non-profit developer of artist spaces in the country.
A City team that included Bietry, Mayor Ron Meer, former Mayor Chuck Oberlie, Redevelopment Commission President Ken Behrendt, First Ward Councilman Richard Murphy, and City Planning Director Craig Phillips worked with Artspace representatives for more than three years to achieve the tax credit award.
“This is an example of what can be achieved when talented people who want the best for their community step forward and work together,” Bietry said.
Artspace President Kelley Lindquist acknowledged the competitive process for obtaining the tax credits.
“With 44 tax credit applications filed and only 15 funded in this round, we’re thrilled to be able to move to the next step in this process and grateful to the IHCDA for recognizing the value of this project,” Lindquist said.“We’re proud to be part of Michigan City’s commitment to redevelop downtown and are confident that this project and the arts will contribute greatly to those efforts.”
“We see this as another anchor for the arts experience in Michigan City and a tool for continued revitalization of Franklin Street,” Saxton added. “We hope to see an influx of tourists come in to see the work that will be done there and we hope this space can be a place for the artists’ creativity to be cultivated.”
The excitement carried over to the nearby Uptown Arts District, where the future neighbors of Artspace expressed their joy.
“This is awesome news,” said Linda Weber, the ‘big toe’ of Urban Soles, a shoe store located one-block away from the Warren Building. “This is going to affect the city positively in so many ways. It builds on the revitalization that has been going on here lately and will definitely build foot traffic in the area.”
Artspace will be a welcome addition to the District. Weber, who has been a business owner on Franklin Street for nearly five years, said she is “delighted” to see how far the Arts District has already come, and that the addition of Artspace will only add to the attract-ability of the area.
“This is a great community to be a part of, and this will only enhance that,” she said.
Artspace, a Minneapolis-based company with similar type artist lofts across the nation, runs a network of 35 affordable arts facilities in 13 states.
The plan to utilize the city’s Warren Building as an Artspace location was approved unanimously by theMichigan City Common Council in 2011, but a plan for implementation could not begin until the necessary tax credits were received.
See the details of the projects that were approved by the IHCDA here.
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