Housing on way to foundry property

A pending purchase of the western two-thirds of the former Golden Foundry property could help ease Columbus’ demand for affordable housing.

Jonesboro Investments Corp., the developer of a low-income apartment complex on the eastern third of the former foundry site, is in the process of buying the rest of the 12.8-acre property.

The Ohio-based developer has executed a contact to purchase the western 8.3 acres of the foundry site, owned by KLM National LLC, with plans to build up to 200 apartments — on top of 60 already planned nearby.

At least some of those 200 units likely will be constructed for low-income residents, said Carl Malysz, the city’s community development director. Jonesboro is looking at some different financing tools for the development, including federal tax credits and affordable housing bonds, he said.

Depending on how much the developer may have to spend on remediation for environmental issues, it may rent some of the additional apartments at a higher rate, or they may all be rented at an affordable rate, Malysz said.

Either way, any quality affordable housing that comes onto the market would help relieve a shortage, said Mark Lindenlaub, executive director of Thrive Alliance.

Lindenlaub’s group manages affordable housing units across five counties, and those are all full, he said.

Similarly, other affordable housing complexes, such as Cambridge Square Apartments and units managed by the Columbus Housing Authority, are full or almost full and have waiting lists, he said.

Thrive Alliance will manage Gateway Apartments, the $10.2 million, 60-unit affordable-housing complex for families that Jonesboro Investments is developing on the eastern 4.5 acres of the property.

Jonesboro Investments officially was awarded $971,161 in federal tax credits and $500,000 in state funding Feb. 27 for that development.

Of 44 applications to the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, which administers and manages the federal credits, Gateway Apartments was one of 15 developments to receive the credits and one of 11 to receive additional state funding.

However, those 60 apartments alone won’t satisfy the community’s affordable housing needs, Lindenlaub said.

The definition of affordable housing is when monthly rent does not exceed 30 percent of a tenant’s income, Malysz said.

By that definition, 2,700 people in the city are currently “cost burdened,” paying rent that exceeds 30 percent of their monthly income, he said. Of those people, 1,500 are spending more than 50 percent of their monthly income on rent, he said.

So the possibility of more affordable housing, especially in a central neighborhood, is an exciting prospect, Mayor Kristen Brown said.

“The blighted conditions of the former foundry site have negatively influenced its surrounding neighborhood for more than a decade,” she said. “The proposed redevelopment of this property will provide positive stability and much-needed rental housing opportunities to our community.”

Purchase of the remaining foundry property enables the city to use a $157,755 grant awarded by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to clear the site for redevelopment. The work, to be done by Indianapolis-based Bruce Carter & Associates LLC, will include demolishing a five-story foundry building, removing rubble and filling in ground depressions.

The city can execute its $167,325 contract with Bruce Carter and Associates and tell the environmental consulting firm to proceed with its work by the end of the week, Malysz said. The contractor then could start work within seven days after that, he said.

There also should be some activity preparing for construction of Gateway Apartments within the next two weeks, with a more formal groundbreaking to come within the next couple months, Lindenlaub said.

The city received the grant funding after another developer proposed to redevelop the property for an $13 million, 84-unit, assisted-living and memory care center that would have been called Gentry Park. But that developer’s purchase agreement with KLM National lapsed.

Malysz said because the grant is contingent upon having a valid development interest, the city tried to salvage that purchase agreement. When it had exhausted all potential thought of proceeding with the original plans, it issued an order Feb. 25 to KLM National to secure the property and remove the building and rubble to make the site safe, he said.

The Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety postponed a hearing on that order until April 7.

What's next?

The city will give Bruce Carter & Associates notice to proceed with work to clear the western two-thirds of the former Golden Foundry site by the end of the week. The Indianapolis-based environmental consulting firm will start work within about a week of receiving that notice.

The Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety will receive an update on progress to clear and secure the site during its April 7 meeting.

Thrive Alliance’s contractor already has received notice to proceed and should be starting work within the next two weeks. Some environmental work already has been occurring at the site.