How will it affect parking? Who is paying for it? What exactly is the market rental rate these days? Will it have pickleball courts?

These questions and others about a planned downtown Richmond apartment building were on the minds of officials and audience members at the joint meeting between Wayne County’s council and commissioners on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

The effort, led by Indianapolis-based developer Flaherty & Collins Properties, would bring approximately 150 market-rate apartments to the land where the former Elder-Beerman building currently sits. Local officials are making the case that investing in the project is a wise use of economic development funds and taxpayer dollars because of the economic impact it would have on the community, including an estimated $54 million in economic output for the construction phase alone.

One of those officials, Economic Development Commission president Valerie Shaffer, noted that she’s been sharing about the project all over the community lately, and that it is going to be a significant part of downtown’s development. Shaffer said the property builds on the Snow administration’s creation of bike paths and other improvements in recent years designed to attract new residential and commercial activity to the district.

Another official, Mayor-elect Ron Oler, was quick to note that his administration fully supports investing in the deal. 

“Even though the Mayor is changing, the city’s commitment to this project is not,” Oler said. He anticipates that it will be the first of “probably $100 million” in investments in the downtown area over the four years of his term in office, and said that while some reasonable concerns about the project have been raised, “we can’t let it get away.”

Deron Kintner, vice president of development for Flaherty & Collins, walked the group through the previously reported details of the project, and took questions from council members and commissioners. There was some concern about whether Richmond can support the expected average rental rate of $1,300/month, but Kintner and Shaffer both cited data and experience suggesting there would be significant demand for the apartments. Part of the development agreement stipulates that the units cannot be converted into subsidized housing for the first 25 years, and Flaherty & Collins will ostensibly be on the hook to ensure occupancy.

Another question was whether there might be negative interactions between people experiencing homelessness and tenants of the building, especially in the parking garage where the developers expect to use 100 of the 335 available spots. Shaffer said they had three years to work with the Oler administration to address that concern.

The project is expected to begin in earnest in 2024, coinciding with the second phase of the Loop project.

No vote was taken on project support at the meeting, but is expected to come back before each body in a future meeting; council will have the vote to use consolidated EDIT funds for the project on its Dec. 6 meeting agenda.

“I hope we have your blessing to move forward,” Oler said, addressing the group.

In other business, the joint workshop:

  • Asked Oler for a verbal commitment to continue the city of Richmond’s giving to the consolidated EDIT fund; Oler affirmed that plan and said he fully supports the EDC’s work.
  • Heard about various building and infrastructure improvement projects in progress.
  • Voted to approve a “health insurance premium holiday” for county employees, who will not have any health insurance deductions from their paychecks during December’s payroll runs. The move, which will see corresponding savings for what the county normally contributes to health insurance as an employer, is aimed at spending down the $4.2 million in reserves for the county’s health insurance fund. Officials agreed the amount was unnecessarily large.
  • Voted to pay a $5,234 invoice for an autopsy performed on a person who was convicted of a crime in Wayne County but died in a prison outside of the county.
  • Voted to transfer funds to pay a $4,305 bill from the Department of Corrections for three months of holding an inmate being held on capital murder charges, with plans to discuss long-term funding for the anticipated $1,085/month bill to continue holding the inmate as the court case goes on.
  • Continued discussions about the use of ARPA funds to cover vehicle replacements and a fuel tank replacement at the highway department.
Share this:

A version of this article appeared in the November 22 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Chris Hardie is the owner and publisher of the Western Wayne News.