News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 18, 2013

ISU downtown housing gains 2 endorsements

City Council to consider bonds at tonight’s meeting

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Indiana State University downtown student housing project got two bursts of momentum Wednesday from a pair of city boards.

At 3 p.m. in City Hall, the Terre Haute Economic Development Commission met in City Hall and endorsed the project, giving a favorable recommendation to the City Council.

The five-member commission, which meets rarely, gave a unanimous recommendation with one abstention from Greg Goode, who abstained due to his position as executive director of government relations at ISU.

The commission essentially gave its stamp of approval to the issuing of city bonds to help fund approximately $1 million of the $17 million project, which will provide student housing in the heart of downtown on Wabash Avenue.

The commission’s vote came after a public hearing, at which no members of the general public attended apart from news media and a representative of the Taxpayers Association of Vigo County.

Representatives of Thompson Thrift, the Terre Haute developer working with ISU, also attended the meeting, including Eric Wojak, a project manager for the company.

The five-story building will be “U” shaped with parking available in the valley of the “U” for retail or commercial tenants, who are expected to occupy the first floor, Wojak told the commission. Student parking will be on the ISU campus to the north, added Cliff Lambert, executive director of the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment, who helped direct the meeting.

“So [students] won’t be taking up downtown parking,” Lambert said.

The Economic Development Commission members include Goode, Lisa Johnson of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., Rick Burger of Duke Energy and the Vigo County Council, Mary Pfister, a Terre Haute real estate professional and George Azar, a downtown restaurant owner and member of the City Council.

The next boost for the ISU downtown housing project came minutes after the first meeting, also in City Hall and also at a 4 p.m. meeting directed by the Redevelopment Department’s Lambert. This time, the city’s Redevelopment Commission, a six-member body, gave its unanimous stamp of approval.

The Redevelopment Commissioners are David Heath, Brian Conley, Jim Nichols, Troy Helman, Brian Dyer and Paul Lockhart. Lockhart is a non-voting member. Helman was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting so he did not cast a vote.

The project now faces a vote in the nine-person Terre Haute City Council, which is set to consider the bonds at tonight’s 6 p.m. regular meeting in City Hall.

The bonds would be paid off using property taxes generated from the building. If property tax revenues fall short of making the necessary payments, ISU and Thompson Thrift have guaranteed to pick up the slack, said Lisa Lee, an attorney with Ice Miller, who to spoke with commission members at both meetings Wednesday.

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