News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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July 19, 2013

City OKs selling bonds to support downtown ISU housing

Council also votes to revoke tax abatements granted four companies in bookkeeping move

TERRE HAUTE — The last local hurdle was cleared Thursday night for Indiana State University to provide new housing for hundreds of students in the middle of the downtown.

The Terre Haute City Council voted 9 to 0 to approve the sale of up to $1.25 million in city bonds, the proceeds of which will help construct the $17-million commercial-residential building in the 500 block of Wabash Avenue.

The council was the last city body that had to approve the bonds. On Wednesday, the appointed boards of the Terre Haute Economic Development Commission and the Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission gave their approvals.

The project still awaits the OK in Indianapolis of the Indiana State Budget Committee, a body made up of state legislators. The committee tabled the project earlier this month to allow for further study.

On Tuesday, ISU and State Budget Committee members will meet to discuss the project, said Cliff Lambert during the Economic Development Commission meeting on Wednesday. Lambert is executive director of the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment and has been a key advocate of the project.

At Thursday night’s regular meeting, the nine-member City Council gave the green light for the sale of the city bonds. The bonds will be repaid by property taxes generated from the new building, which will be up to five stories in height and house about 230 ISU students.

Expected to take about 16 months to construct, the new building will be owned by a newly formed limited liability company controlled by Thompson Thrift, a Terre Haute developer, Thompson Thrift officials said Wednesday. Paul Thrift, a principal with the company, said last week the bond sale is “absolutely essential” to the project getting off the ground.

While 75 percent of the property taxes from the new building will be used to pay the bond debt, 25 percent of the property taxes will go to the Terre Haute Redevelopment Commission, which oversees the city’s special taxing districts known as Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts.

The 25-percent payment to the Redevelopment Commission is a unique feature of the current project, said Councilman Todd Nation, D-4th. “I think that makes it easy to say yes” to the project, Nation said.

The bonds will be repaid for a period of 20 years. Thompson Thrift is seeking a 30-year lease from ISU at approximately $1 million per year.

n Also Thursday, the council voted to revoke the tax abatements for four Terre Haute businesses. Although unprecedented in anyone’s memory on the current council, the move was largely a bookkeeping action, because none of the companies affected sought to continue the abatements in the first place and, according to city officials, the dollar value involved is “insignificant.”

Two of the companies, Black Dog Ranch and Ivy Hill, are out of business in Terre Haute while the other two, Lenex Steel and Gartland Foundry, had not sought continuation of their abatements, which were near the end of their 10-year lives in any case.

Nevertheless, this year’s close scrutiny of abatements shows a new determination, in light of tighter budgets, to monitor abatement compliance, said Norm Loudermilk, council president, at the end of the 45-minute council meeting.

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

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