Downtown Housing Proposal

I attended the meeting this week on the subject of proposed new construction of mixed-use housing in the downtown area.

A pre-plan has already been submitted and approved by IDHA with the locations, etc. indicated. These locations include duplex units at 133 N. Hazel (north of the bus terminal) and 402 N. Hazel (old city hall lot). A four-plex of similar design will be at 409 N. Hazel (north of Churchill Towers). Single family homes will be built at 324 Oak St. (between Pine St. and Oak St., Madison and Seminary). A two-story apartment building with 22 units will be built at 33 N. Hazel (former First Midwest lot, SE corner of North and Hazel). A two-story apartment building with 26 units will be built at 116 N. Walnut (city surface lot on the SW corner of Harrison and Walnut St.). Designs are proposed to fit into the areas with apartments reflecting the design of other buildings in the downtown area and duplexes with a traditional house design.The final application is due Feb. 15 and can include changes in location but the organizers emphasized that these locations were chosen and approved specifically and they feel they contributed to the success of the application so far.

Of the 70 units, 14 will have no income restrictions and will be rented at $720 to $997/month for 1-3 bedroom units. Another 14 will be available to people with household income of $13,440 for one person to $22, 260 for six people and rented at $360 to $498/month. The remaining 42 units will be available to people making $26,880 (1 person) to $44,520 (6 people) at somewhere in between the rents above. If renters qualify for Section 8, that benefit could be used to further subsidize rent.

The NFP will file for property tax exemption but have built property taxes into their proposal if refused.

Jaclyn Vinson indicated that DHA had worked with the city staff for a year to determine the locations in part based on the fact that the lots are owned by the city and could be donated to the project and in part because of the amenities offered by the location and the work already done by those living downtown and in the West Downtown Neighborhood to improve the area. She says they rejected other areas such as Sager campus and Lincoln School lots because of blight in those areas.

Members of the city council were not made aware of the project until late fall. The council’s first chance to vote on the donation of land will not come until the final project is approved by the state in May at which point changes cannot be made.

Positives indicated at the meeting: A $15 million investment in the downtown in new construction. If added to tax rolls could reduce property taxes for all. Quality affordable housing for “people who have earned the right to be here.” Designs fit into neighborhoods. Additional built-in potential customers for downtown businesses. The New Holland apartments and the Wolford Apartments have been positive additions to the area. Market rate downtown units offer a viable alternative for entry-level professionals such as teachers who might otherwise live outside of Danville.

Negatives indicated at the meeting: Using city lots would generally reduce available downtown parking. Will the concentration of 66 additional low-income housing units negatively impact other property values? If project receives exemption, no direct financial benefit. 116 N. Walnut would eliminate a parking lot that would be important when the Fischer development is complete. Additional lots used would potentially limit retail/restaurant development that is expected as a spin-off from the Fischer project.

I believe the proposal is conceptually sound. Anytime we can get a $15 million project we should move forward, but I do have some concerns. 

First it’s a highly concentrated project. Studies have shown that lower income developments are more successful when there is less density. 
Another concern is the loss of two of our parking lots.  With the Fischer project moving forward, (recently more than $1 million invested), and the retail business that will follow we will need those parking spots.  My hope is that we resolve these issues before the final grant is submitted. 

As Mayor I will make sure that projects are presented to the public before proposals are finalized.

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