State Declines to Fund HAND Proposed Projects

On Thursday, the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority (IHCDA) announced which projects across the state would receive reservations for Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and for the fifth straight year, Hamilton County proposals are denied funding.

Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development (HAND) proposed two developments this year that would have created 84 affordable apartments and contributed to the revitalization of two significant properties. The Noblesville Granary and Blackhawk Commons in Sheridan also would have established a business incubator in a preserved grain elevator, and a recreational facility in an historic school gymnasium.

In total, HAND proposed to leverage local funds to generate a $20 million investment in Hamilton County. Each development faced significant competition. 15 small cities and 17 rural communities proposed projects to compete with HAND’s proposal. HAND will assess the factors that contributed to the projects not receiving funds, and plans to explore other options.

“HAND is committed to the Southwest Quad and the Town of Sheridan, so the reality is we will continue to advocate for the highest quality, redevelopment project in both locations,” said Lichti. “Whether we get an opportunity to resubmit these proposals is not entirely up to us at the moment, so we’ll work closely with local stakeholders to navigate the next steps.”

Hamilton County has not received these funds since 2011, a time period in which over 10,000 new housing units have been built. “We don’t expect special consideration from the State, but the rules need to accommodate developments that place affordable housing close to jobs and opportunity,” says Lichti.

“Hamilton County is an economic engine that needs workers. It has a population rapidly moving into retirement and Millennials can’t afford to live in the communities they grew up in,” says Lichti. “This housing is critically important to the long-term vibrancy of Hamilton County communities.”

Putting the brakes on these developments also puts a pinch on HAND’s comprehensive strategy. In recent years, HAND increasingly partnered with local communities through its outreach program, “Neighborhoods NOW,” which allows them to work at a neighborhood level on a whole range of quality of life issues. The delay in these developments leads to increasing pressure on local support. HAND will be rallying partners in the coming months to maintain momentum.

“As a nonprofit, we need leaders in each community who believe as we do, that Hamilton County will be a healthier more vibrant community when everyone has safe, affordable housing,” says Lichti. “HAND is rooted in a mission to improve lives and build community, so while strategy may shift, our mission stays the same.”

“In terms of the Noblesville Granary and Blackhawk Commons, let’s just say we’re shifting gears and we may have to explore some alternative options.”

Noblesville Granary

In the meantime demolition of the wooden grain elevator will continue. The current plan preserved the bottom two stories so the historic facility could become a public landmark.

“It does complicate demolition, so I cannot fault the North Central Coop if they proceed with a more conventional demo,” said Lichti. “We’ve been grateful for their cooperation to help us get to this point.”

Local firms have expressed interest in salvaging wood from the structure, and the potential for an onsite sale for the community is still in the works.

A group of Purdue graduate business students are researching how to develop the Noblesville Innovation Elevator – the name of the business incubator proposed for the site. Their report in late April will shed light on what other paths may exist to obtain financing for the preservation.

Blackhawk Commons

Town and county support were critical to the proposal, and HAND will reassess its plans and discuss options with the owner and community. “The worst part is feeling that we let down the people of Sheridan,” says Lichti. “I want them to retain hope that this community gem will be restored to life, and HAND will do whatever we can to make it possible.”