News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 20, 2013

ISU gets OK for downtown housing project

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The State Budget Committee has approved a multi-million dollar project to provide downtown housing for Indiana State University students, part of a public-private partnership.

The committee approved a 30-year lease for ISU. The lease would be with private developer Thompson Thrift, which would build a five-story retail/residential building along Wabash Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets.

ISU officials were relieved to finally get approval. The committee had tabled the lease agreement at its July meeting, with committee members saying the lease agreement needed changes that were more favorable to ISU.

On Thursday, Diann McKee, ISU vice president for business affairs, said the university and others “have put a lot of effort into this. We feel we’ve made our best effort to answer questions and concerns the state has had.”

She believes the project will have “an enormous impact for the university and local community … It truly can be a transformative project for downtown Terre Haute.”

During the meeting on Friday in Indianapolis, she outlined changes to the lease agreement.

State Sen. Karen Tallian, whose questions about the financing of the project back in July delayed approval, said Friday that she was pleased with the changes that had been made to the contract between ISU and the private developer.

“I appreciate the fact that you’ve done a lot of work to improve this,” Tallian told McKee.

State Sen. Tim Skinner said state budget committee members had toured the project site earlier in the year and with that, had a better appreciation of the project’s goals of providing more housing for students in a way that would help revitalize the Terre Haute’s downtown.

“This is going to be a tremendous addition to our downtown area,” Skinner said, noting that it will bring more young people into the area. “This is something we’ve needed for a long time.”

In July, members had concerns about the long-term commitment and costs as well as the lack of ownership of the facility by ISU.

Last week, State Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, told the Tribune-Star, “[ISU] did quite a bit of re-negotiation of the overall agreement and contract,” he said. “I think they’ve done a good job of trying to answer our questions.”

The $18.7 million project would consist of retail space on the first floor with student housing on the top four floors. It will house 228 students in four-bedroom units with common living and dining areas.

Funding will be provided by the university’s residence hall system operating budget.

Key changes in the revised lease include:

• An option for ISU to purchase the housing portion of the structure is now included. This option may be exercised by the university at any point during the lease term.

• The developer is required to use prevailing wage for the construction of the project.

• Preservation of the existing facades has been eliminated. This reduces the university’s initial costs by an estimated $2 million. Construction is expected to start in the spring with the building ready for occupancy by fall 2015.

For more on the approval of the housing project, including additional changes to the original lease, revisit and see Saturday’s Tribune-Star.

Maureen Hayden, Indiana Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI, the parent company of the Tribune-Star, contributed to this report.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or