All posts by Nate Lichti

HAND Dedicates Phase 3 at Spicewood Gardens

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Partners Dedicate Much Needed Senior Housing in Sheridan

(Sheridan, Indiana – November 11, 2015): Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development (HAND) and its partners hosted a ribbon cutting at the most recent phase of Spicewood Gardens. Spicewood now includes 60 senior affordable apartments and represents HAND’s largest development.

“It’s been a rewarding process to work with our residents and the local leaders on building more units in this community,” said Nate Lichti, Executive Director. “The demand for these units is incredible, and while we’re grateful to dedicate these 8 units, we still have another 192 on our waiting list we can’t forget about.”

The development demonstrates HAND’s continued commitment to quality, energy efficient housing, and HAND enjoyed their first time partnering with Meyer-Najem. “Meyer-Najem was professional, thorough, and worked tremendously well with our design team and neighbors,” said Lichti. “As an example of how courteous and responsive they were, some of our residents are disappointed they won’t have workers on site to bake cookies and chicken noodle soup for.”

Construction of these apartments require participation and involvement from many partners, and many were on hand for the ribbon cutting. Financial support for the project came through the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) and Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis (FHLBI) through the HOME and Affordable Housing Programs, respectively. Hamilton County contributed Community Development Block Grant funds to the project. Lake City Bank and the Indiana’s Community Development Fund provided permanent financing for the development.

Lichti also reported, “Many of our constituents want us to break down how we fund these developments, so for this purpose, I’d like to report that 45% of the funding comes through federal grants, 40% from private grants, and 15% from debt.”

“This is a fairly typical plan for our smaller projects, but federal funding is really threatened,” shared Lichti. “It’s fiercely competitive and we need to make sure resources are available to address the tremendous needs in Hamilton County, and if not preserved, we will need to find or create alternative sources.”

HAND is committed to serving Hamilton County and partners with communities in a number of ways. In 2016, HAND will continue providing home repair services through Helping HAND; partnering with neighborhoods through Neighborhoods NOW; and advocating for affordable housing development. It learns whether either of its prominent development proposals – Blackhawk Commons or Noblesville Granary – receive funding from the state in late February.

HAND invests in neighborhoods, provides housing solutions, and builds partnerships to improve the lives and build community in Hamilton County. Individuals interested in learning more can visit www.handincorporated.org or call 317-674-8108 for more information.

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NOW Conference Success

Neighborhoods NOW Conference

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(Fishers, Indiana – November 11, 2015):  On Tuesday, over 125 guests attended the inaugural Neighborhoods NOW Conference hosted by Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development (HAND).   35 professionals provided leadership to fifteen unique workshops, all organized under the themes of the day:  Growth, Affordability, Seniors and Neighborhood Development.

The purpose of the day was to explore how diverse stakeholders can work together to address prevalent community development issues.  During his opening remarks, Nate Lichti, Executive Director of HAND, recognized Hamilton County leads the state in several quality of life indicators, but this doesn’t mean local leaders are stopping there.  “We know we’re going to continue striving for excellence, and with 7-8,000 new residents every year, the dynamics are always changing.”

Nancy Chance

Leaders discussing issues of Affordable Housing in Hamilton County

Affordable Housing was high on the agenda given the significant role it plays in many quality of life issues.  “We addressed the stigma head on today and our presenters showed many examples of affordable housing done right,” said Lichti.   Prominent local developers like Pedcor, Herman Kittle Properties, Real America and Milestone Ventures were in attendance and prepared to answer any questions about tax credit developments.  Several single family developers, such as Pulte, also participated in the conversations.

Lichti pointed out that Hamilton County homeowners earning over $75,000 a year receive the lion’s share of the federal subsidies to make housing affordable.  “73% of homeowners in Hamilton County receives, on average, $2,100 a year in tax relief through the mortgage interest deduction on their income tax return,” reported Lichti.  This translates into approximately $117 Million in tax benefits claimed annually by middle and upper income homeowners.

“This matters,” Lichti says, “because subsidies are perceived negatively when we’re talking about working families or other low income households.  Nothing comes close to this kind of support for renters or affordable housing developments.”

In one discussion, Drew Klacik, Professor of Public Policy at IUPUI, shared that all too often, “Hoosiers are striving to be average, and we need to aim higher…Hamilton County is in a position to lead the way on a number of issues.”  The participants were certainly motivated to do so.

Items on the agenda for follow-up include support for the public transit forum that’s seeking a referendum in 2016, ongoing advocacy to change the hearts and minds about affordable housing, and more community participation in local government, especially in local zoning.

The guests included a mix of communities, public and private businesses, and numerous associations.  “We were proud to have business and economic development experts talking with social service representatives and community volunteers,” said Lichti. “This networking is essential to move things forward, and everyone here wants to make sure something changes.”

Workshops were offered on Transit, Healthcare, and Economic Development, to name a few.  Many participants commented that there were too many appealing topics, a problem the conveners were pleased to have.

Students from Hamilton Heights also participated in the conference for the morning sessions and walked away inspired to pursue change in their communities.  The rest of the participants also greatly appreciated the comments made by the students during sessions on Affordable Housing 101 and Homelessness and Schools.

“They were insightful and asked some very good questions,” said Cory Daly, one of the facilitators for the day.  “These young adults showed that they understand what’s going on in their community.”

HAND plans to organize community forums and advocacy campaigns around the ideas coming out of the conference.  “These issues require a holistic approach,” reported Phil Anderson during the closing panel. “We need to work on ways to develop walkable neighborhoods, but to also make sure they’re connected to the resources around them:  jobs, commerce, healthcare, etc.”

In his closing remarks, Nate Lichti, Executive Director of HAND, said we shined a spotlight on Hamilton County’s pursuit of excellence, and explored ways to continue improving this for the next generation. “The next steps aren’t simple, but at least we know there are a lot of partners at our side.”

Sponsors for the event are Visit Hamilton County, Legacy Fund, Old National Bank, Lake City Bank, Flaherty & Collins, IACED, City of Carmel, Indy Connect and PNC. Additional sponsors also include: MIBOR, Urban Land Institute, Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, PEDCOR, RealAmerica, Milestone Ventures, AARP of Indiana and the Noblesville Chamber.  Videos were also produced by Noblesville High School students, Olivia Goad and Adam Van Dam.  These will be available on HAND’s web-site for public viewing.

HAND invests in neighborhoods, provides housing solutions, and builds partnerships to improve the lives and build community in Hamilton County. Individuals interested in learning more can visit www.handincorporated.org or call 317-674-8108 for more information.

 

Project Status Reports (10/8)

There’s been a lot of news and good progress for both the Noblesville Granary and Blackhawk Commons.  Both planning processes have involved many engagements with the communities, and each has encountered reasonable challenges.  In both Sheridan and Noblesville, the immediate neighbors are particularly invested in speaking out, and we remain resolute to engage and address concerns comprehensively.  This post provides a brief summary of recent events.

center court logo

In Sheridan, we met with over 20 neighbors to discuss the possible restoration of the Sheridan School.  Blackhawk Commons received passionate appeals from many individuals who work with youth and families and are particularly sensitive to the need for affordable housing.  Preservation of the school is a high priority for the community, for both sentimental and practical reasons.  The town leaders have already approved our request to rezone the property and extended a tax abatement to support the project.

Then, at the County Council meeting on October 7th, over 15 representatives from Sheridan showed up to support HAND’s request for support.  In an unprecedented move, the County Council made a motion to approve the funding request after only hearing 2 of Sheridan’s 5 spokespersons!  Councilor McKinney said of the request, “You had us at hello,” and the Council expressed their gratitude and excitement about the preservation of this facility (including the image above from the existing center court).

Thanks to Robert Marr, Carla Naum, Dave Mundy, Lisa Samuels and Dave Kincaid who spoke, or were prepared to speak on behalf of the project.  Many more came out or wrote letters to express the broad support.  Our gratitude to Margaret, Beverly, Becky, Parvin, Brenda, Jesse and the rest!

Noblesville Granary south east with graphic

The Noblesville Granary is another project in a different community, and the process for garnering support is unique.  Vocal opposition by our neighbor is giving us opportunities to address the misconceptions of affordable housing and engage the community in meaningful planning conversations.

Our plans have been shaped by these discussions, and now that the designs are public, we can better show how the re-purposed grain elevator and site will contribute to downtown Noblesville’s vibrant economy.  It’s the public debate of our proposal that has the potential to strengthen the project, so we’re happy to debate the merits of the Granary openly.

City and County officials are now starting to receive detailed plans and proposals, and are still forming their opinions about the development.  The County Commissioner’s decision to allocate CDBG funds to the project helped us get very close to a minimum threshold.  If we can secure a moderate pledge from the City in the coming weeks, our application is going to be exceptionally competitive at the state.

The County’s decision to not vote on our request was understandable.  The Council made it clear they want to see City involvement first.  In Sheridan, timing worked for this to occur, but in Noblesville the process is different.  The City will first decide whether to rezone the property this week – a request universally supported by plans and diverse constituents – and the Economic Development Commission and administration will determine how it may decide to help with the local match.

At the County Council meeting, many stood up to speak in support of the project.  Mark Winzenread talked about the need for affordable housing and compared the project to similar developments on Mass Ave and Fountain Square that spurred economic development.  Debbie Jamieson gave the neighbor’s perspective, and Dottie Young talked about the iconic structure.  Nancy Chance and Sandy Stewart each provided convincing stories about working families and young people struggling to make it in Hamilton County.  The need for quality affordable housing is in Noblesville, and the neighborhood is ripe for this investment.  Thanks to Marcus and Ramona Ploof, Mike Corbett, Matt Yates, Holly Wheeler, and others who came out or wrote letters in support of our request.

By now the community should know that Section 8 is not included in this project, but we will not participate in denigrating a program that provides critical housing to some of our most vulnerable citizens.

The community should also be aware that we’re proposing a high quality development that will likely be the greenest development in downtown Noblesville – possibly Hamilton County.

The business incubator space in the existing Elevator will create economic opportunities for artists and entrepreneurs while expanding the Polk St. Arts District.

We also have offered parking solutions to the neighborhood, but cannot afford to depend on unreliable, untested parking carousels for the housing.  In addition, HAND cannot build parking for a neighbor who won’t participate financially in a joint parking structure.

HAND’s negotiations were completely open and transparent, and the Owner elected our offer because we presented a viable proposal that met the city’s goals for a mixed-use development.

We want our partners at the Neighborhood, City and County to have the time they need to gain confidence in the Noblesville Granary. We have confidence the merits of the project are solid, and will garner the support it needs.   The project meets so many strategic goals that we’re grateful to have site control so we can advocate for the highest and best use of this key property.

Thanks to all the volunteers, partners, and community leaders who are engaged in each of these projects.

Introducing the New Noblesville Granary

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Nate Lichti, Executive Director HAND 347 South 8th Street, Suite A Noblesville, IN 46060 317-674-8108 nate@handincorporated.org

The plans developed by Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development (HAND) for the partially demolished grain elevator site in downtown Noblesville are coming to light. HAND released renderings of their proposal for the two acre site, including preservation of a section of the existing elevator. The project is being called the Elevator and Lofts at the Noblesville Granary.

The plans were created by local architects Darren Peterson and John Dierdorf, and show the preservation of the footprint of the wooden grain elevator. The plans keep in place the primary workroom on the south end, eight grain bins on the north end, and the historic limestone and brick foundation. “The foundation alone shows the craftsmanship and incredible investment made in 1904,” says Lichti. “It held up 350,000 bushels of wheat so we’re confident it can handle anything we propose.”

Between the bins and the workroom, HAND proposes new commercial construction that will house “the Elevator,” a business incubator space for entrepreneurs working on hardware (ie. industrial arts, textiles, and sculpture). The Elevator will provide work space, show rooms, and second story office/community room that will be set up with flexible workspace, similar to Launch Fishers.

The Lofts will include 54 apartments in a three-story building along Walnut and 9th St. Another 4,000 s.f. of main floor commercial space along 8th St. extends the downtown one block into the Southwest Quad. The apartments will lease for $300-$750 for one and two-bedroom apartments, and income restrictions will apply. Surface parking is proposed to accommodate the on-site needs, thereby eliminating the need for a structure.

HAND is requesting to rezone the property to change it from Industrial to a Downtown Zoning category. “This change in zoning helps protect the neighborhood by ensuring new development fits to the design standards desired by the community,” explains Nate Lichti, Executive Director. “No one in the City wants south 8th St. to be continually developed with industrial use. This zoning change meets the goals of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, and    achieves a strategic expansion of Downtown.”

“Individuals are coming out of the woodwork to talk about this,” says Lichti, “People with long-term connections to the grain elevator, folks saying we have to ‘put it back together the way it was.’ There are no promises, but obviously this project is largely dependent on public support. If city leaders don’t hear from neighbors, this could be a flat piece of ground next year.”

Plans were placed on hold during extended negotiations with the owner of the property, so HAND now has virtually one chance to make it through the hearing processes. “The complications of third party negotiations resulted in a very compressed timeline,” reports Nate Lichti, Executive Director. “Our design team is top notch and ideally I’d have a few more months, but we have enough time to produce a quality product.”

HAND invests in neighborhoods, provides housing solutions, and builds partnerships to improve the lives and build community in Hamilton County. Follow HAND on Facebook, visit www.handincorporated.org or call 317-674-8108 for more information.

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Draft Site Plan – 2 Acre Site includes preservation of sections of grain elevator, business incubator space, and 54 apartments.

9.30 Site Plan

View of 8th and Walnut – Residential structure along Walnut.3

Noblesville Granary north east 2

View of Grain Elevator along 8th St. – Preserved bin structures on north and south end with new construction built on the existing foundation will serve as business incubator space.

 

More than 100 Individuals Show Support for Affordable Housing in Hamilton County

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Nate Lichti, Executive Director HAND 347 South 8th Street, Suite A Noblesville, IN 46060 317-674-8108 nate@handincorporated.org

Every two years the State of Indiana publishes rules on where the majority of the state’s affordable housing will be produced. This policy is the Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) and it guides the investment of over a hundred million dollars across the state. In response, nonprofit and for-profit development companies compete in an increasingly competitive process for these funds. Ultimately, the state benefits from about 800-1,000 housing units built each year through these public-private partnerships.

Many are wondering whether the priorities currently in place serve the state and provide the best opportunities for Hoosiers to access jobs and economic opportunities. For the past few cycles, Indiana’s policy prioritized revitalization projects that took abandoned buildings and transformed them into housing. Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development (HAND), a local nonprofit community development corporation, observed this disparity and mobilized to pursue changes in the state’s formula.

Executive Director Nate Lichti says, “We feel state policy should reflect the private market, and if the housing demand is in these growing communities, the state should value the assets and opportunities contained within these communities. Plus, companies are expanding and having a hard time attracting a workforce, so connecting jobs and affordable housing makes a ton of sense.”

Don’t forget to register for Putt ‘n Par on August 7th!

putt n par logo 2

Due to the current policy, it has been four years since development has occurred in Hamilton County through this program. In comparison, Marion, Allen and Lake Counties combined added 2,927 housing units through this program. Single-handedly, the private market in Hamilton County built almost exactly the same number of houses as all three of these combined (11,349 vs. 11,416).

“Unfortunately, we’re not getting high quality housing that is also affordable. Private developers can only do one of those at a time, quality or affordable, so we need to find ways to build some affordability into these areas with lots of opportunities,” says Lichti.

In May, HAND launched a campaign to raise awareness of the issue, and put a petition on its website so individuals could easily express their support. Within a month, 109 individuals from across Hamilton County signed on to support the initiative. “We had support from social service agencies, concerned citizens and elected officials,” reports Lichti. “We were also especially grateful for residents of Sheridan and tenants of Spicewood Gardens who spoke up at a public hearing in downtown Indianapolis to support changes in the policy.”

Lt. Governor Ellspermann at HAND’s Annual Meeting in May told the audience, “You know, some studies show that some affordable housing opportunities can provide that path out of poverty, particularly when they’re in mixed income neighborhoods. That’s such an important challenge that we want addressed.”

Lichti acknowledges, “Sometimes our constituents aren’t the most comfortable in promoting affordable housing because of the negative perceptions that exist, but I believe this campaign provides evidence that these issues are broadly shared and increasingly pressing.”

“Nationally, there are huge policy debates going on about the best ways to address issues of housing instability and homelessness. However, there seems to also be a consensus that locally-driven projects and program designs are the most effective. Now, we have over 100 people engaged in this conversation, and I’m excited to see what ideas we can implement locally with or without the support of the state.”

As a next step, HAND is hosting the “Neighborhoods NOW Conference on Housing and Neighborhood Development” on November 10th at the Forum Convention Center in Fishers. Dozens of partner organizations are helping plan conversations around four prominent themes: Growth, Affordability, Senior Housing and Livability. The outcome of the Neighborhoods NOW Conference will be to identify the key strategies Hamilton County can take to continue providing a high quality of life to all its residents. Partial support for the conference has been received from Visit Hamilton County, PNC Bank, and the City of Carmel, but more support is needed.

HAND invests in neighborhoods, provides housing solutions, and builds partnerships to improve the lives and build community in Hamilton County. HAND is hosting a fundraiser on Friday, August 7th that includes golfing (3pm) and family games and putt putt (5:30pm). Individuals interested in learning more can visit www.handincorporated.org or call 317-674-8108 for more information.