News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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December 12, 2013

State to consider ISU housing deal

Downtown development plan to include revisions to original agreement

TERRE HAUTE — A multi-million dollar project to provide downtown housing for Indiana State University students, part of a public/private partnership, is on the agenda for the Dec. 20 meeting of the State Budget Committee.

The agenda is scheduled to be released today, and the downtown student housing lease will be included, said Deanna Oware, a deputy director of the State Budget Agency.

The item was tabled at the committee’s July meeting, with committee members saying the lease agreement needed changes that were more favorable to ISU.

Committee members, including Chairman and State Sen. Luke Kenley, had concerns about the long-term commitment, costs and the fact that ISU would not own the facility.

Kenley, R-Noblesville, also confirmed Thursday the item will be on the agenda for the Dec. 20 meeting. “They 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.”

He described the revised agreement as a responsible, appropriate arrangement for ISU. “Hopefully, it will work out well” for the parties involved, he said.

Kenley noted it was a new and unique type of transaction for ISU as far as student housing.

He said he couldn’t discuss specific changes because he did not have the documents in front of him.

When the State Budget Committee tabled the long-term lease in July, ISU had sought approval for a 30-year lease agreement with private developer Thompson Thrift, which would build a multi-story retail/residential building along Wabash Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets.

The agreement called for ISU to lease the upper floors for student housing, while the ground floor would be for commercial space.

The original lease called for ISU to lease the student housing portion of the building from Thompson Thrift for $1.05 million annually for three decades. At the time, Kenley said he did not believe the agreement was a good one for ISU, and the committee called for more work on the project.

State Sen. Tim Skinner, an alternate member of the State Budget Committee, said last week he is optimistic the revised agreement will be approved. “Otherwise, I feel like it probably wouldn’t be on the agenda at all,” he said. “I feel really confident about it.”

ISU officials Diann McKee and Greg Goode have worked closely with Kenley to address concerns, Skinner said.

“By virtue of the fact the contract is going to be on the agenda tells me ISU has satisfactorily worked through the language and has now proposed a contract that is much more acceptable to the State Budget Committee and Sen. Kenley,” Skinner said.

Kenley wanted to ensure “at the end of the day, this is a good deal for the state of Indiana,” Skinner said.

Skinner said he’s also tried to help educate committee members about how the project “is a vital part of the downtown [Terre Haute] plan.”

While the lease has been amended, it is not on the agenda for today’s ISU board of trustees meeting.

When the board of trustees approved the proposal earlier this year, it delegated to McKee the authority to negotiate the lease. The board would not be required to take further action, although it could address the matter today if it chose.

Those involved with the downtown retail/residential project believe it will be a catalyst for other downtown development.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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