News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 29, 2013

Housing plan for ISU moves forward

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University may be one step closer to offering downtown student housing.

The Terre Haute Board of Public Works and Safety on Monday approved the sale of a downtown parking lot to Thompson Thrift, a Terre Haute contractor, which has plans to develop large-scale downtown housing for ISU on the site.

The $118,000 bid approved Monday was the sole offer on the property, which is currently a 33-space parking lot on the northeast corner of Fifth Street and Wabash Avenue.

To purchase the property, buyers had to guarantee to use the land as part of a larger development. Thompson Thrift has met that and other conditions placed on the sale, said Rhonda Oldham, a Terre Haute attorney representing the city in the transaction.

In its bid documents, Thompson Thrift said it would build a four-story student housing facility with retail space on the ground floor between Fifth and Sixth streets on the north side of Wabash. Other than the parking lot, the rest of that block is owned by Mike and Kal Ellis, Terre Haute attorneys. Thompson Thrift said the Ellis-owned portion of the block is “under contract,” which would allow the development to take place.

In another matter, the board, whose members are appointed by the mayor, approved a five-year loan for the city to purchase a new fire engine for the Terre Haute Fire Department. The loan, for a little more than $394,000, will be through Riddell National Bank at a 2.5-percent interest rate, city officials said.

The purchase is part of plans to replace five fire engines over several years, said Jeff Fisher, fire chief. Most of the department’s trucks are between 10 and 12 years old, he said, adding that replaced fire engines will either be kept in reserve, used for training or sold.

Money for the purchase is coming from the city’s ambulance fees, said Leslie Ellis, city controller, who also attended Monday’s meeting.

The board, which reviews city contracts, also approved a “claw back” agreement between the city and JWS Machine, a metal fabrication company setting up shop at Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field.

The Terre Haute City Council this month approved a 10-year tax abatement for the company, which is currently in Clay County. The agreement approved Monday states that the City Council may cancel the tax abatement and impose penalties if JWS Machine does not meet the terms of its abatement.

In its abatement application, JWS stated it will employ 35 people at the airport location and invest more than $2 million in the property, which formerly served Ivy Tech Community College.

The abatement is expected to save the company about $55,000 over the next 10 years.

Among other things, JWS Machine provides machining, laser cutting, fabrication, model and reverse engineering services, according to the company’s website.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes