Columbus’ Economic Development Commission is recommending the city create its fourth economic development target area to assist a developer seeking to build senior apartments at 25th and Midway streets.

RealAmerica Development, based in Fishers, is proposing to redevelop just a little over an acre on a 6-acre site once used as the Helton Garden Center at 2655 25th St.

The property has been vacant for about 12 years, said Mary Ferdon, Columbus’ executive director of administration and community development. The company has built successful affordable senior housing projects in Gnaw Bone and in Nashville, both in Brown County.

RealAmerica wants to build a four-story, 70-unit senior housing complex called Hawcreek Preserve Senior Apartments, containing 50 one-bedroom units and 20 two-bedroom units, said Mike Lang, RealAmerica development associate.

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Due to the property’s proximity to a floodway and floodplain along Haw Creek, the property has about 1.2 acres of buildable space, Lang told the economic development commission on Thursday.

While the building site has challenges, Ferdon and Lang told commission members that it has huge location advantages to the senior population.

The property is within walking distance or a short drive to Columbus Regional Hospital, several grocery stores, a pharmacy, a rehabilitation center, the nearby Lincoln Park facilities and several restaurants.

The site is described by the city as an in-fill location, meaning it is a vacant site surrounded by development which is vacant and needs to go back on the tax rolls in another use.

The commission’s recommendation now goes to the Columbus City Council for approval, to be considered at 6 p.m Oct. 4 and Oct. 18 at city council chambers. RealAmerica is likely to seek a tax abatement for the building project, Ferdon said.

Commission president Justin Hohn said he was in favor of the RealAmerica project but opposes the process the city uses to identify and approve economic development target areas.

Hohn said he preferred identifying all the parcels that could be target areas, which can be as much as 15 percent of the city, and then marketing those to developers. The city’s process has been to have developers come to the city with projects for properties where they are seeking the target area designation, something Hohn said was not state legislators’ intent when they created the law.

If the target area is approved by the council, RealAmerica can move forward in seeking housing tax credits from the state to fund building the project, Lang said. The city’s other economic development target areas include most of the downtown area, the Kroger Marketplace site and the Second Street area where a sports complex proposal fell through several years ago, Ferdon said.

Tax credits are awarded at the state level annually in a competitive process in which projects are assigned points for meeting certain criteria in serving a city’s population.

The most recent tax credit project to be successful in Columbus was Gateway Apartments, which has opened at 10th Street and Cottage Avenue as affordable housing for all age ranges.

Three other proposed residential development projects in Columbus failed to qualify for tax credits in the latest round of competition this past spring, but one of those developers may reapply in the next round, along with RealAmerica’s proposal, Ferdon said.

There will be several other hurdles for the RealAmerica project to clear, Lang said. The company will go before the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals in October seeking a variance on building height and on parking places, and must seek rezoning to obtain multi-family residential status for the property.

Ferdon said city officials support the project as an ideal solution to meet a need for affordable senior housing at a perfect location for seniors’ needs.

What's next

The Columbus City Council will consider establishing an economic development target area to assist RealAmerica in its pursuit of tax credits to build affordable senior housing at 2655 25th St. at meetings at 6 p.m. Oct.4 and Oct. 18 at Columbus City Hall.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.