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Aid could brighten outlook for foundry site


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City and state aid could help two new developments take root in the remains of the former Golden Castings foundry site on 10th Street — a $23 million investment in the long-empty property.

Where concrete rubble, tangled rebar and a hulk of an empty building now sit on 12.8 largely empty acres could be a $10 million affordable-housing complex and a $13 million nursing home dedicated to seniors with memory ailments.

Mayor Kristen Brown said the projects and funding options could tie together to help solve an enormous issue for the community.

“It is redeveloping a blighted property that is at the core of our city, and it would be helpful to uplift that whole neighborhood,” Brown said.

The property is located at 1616 10th St., immediately west of Cottage Avenue. Properties surrounding the former Golden Castings site are:

Doug Otto United Way Center loading docks to the north Bartholomew Consolidated Schools administrative center to the north Quality Machine & Tool to the west

Clinton E. Mann, also to the west, which houses Carpet Mania, as well as some shared-tenant space for other businesses In 2006, the city came up with a redevelopment- options study for the property and updated that study again in 2012, which included public input. The process identifies three best uses for the full property:

Residential

Mixed use of residential and commercial

Office development or a business incubator

Jeff Bergman, planning director for the City of Columbus and Bartholomew County planning department, said it is premature for his department to recommend for or against the latest proposed uses.

The next step for WDG Construction Group Inc. would be to apply for a zoning change for the assisted-living center it would like to build on the westernmost part of the site.

The next step for developer Jonesboro Investments Corp. is to submit a site plan for the Gateway Apartments affordable-housing complex proposed for the easternmost portion of the former Golden site, which is properly zoned for that use.

The former foundry closed in 2003, and most of the remains of the 90-year buildings were recycled for scrap after the property was sold in 2005 to KLM National.

KLM last year proposed building a recycling center/scrapyard at the site. But community opposition, including concerns about effects on the neighbors, led the Columbus Board of Zoning Appeals to reject the application.

In addition to concerns over noise and traffic, neighbors also worried about disturbing the possible contaminants at the site.

Environmental studies have shown that the easternmost portion of the site is contaminated from years of foundry emissions, although there are no records the western portion has ever had an environmental study done. That portion of the property is also where the heaviest of the foundry work was done.

Hundreds of complaints were made to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management during the last years of the foundry’s life, when acidic emissions belched into the sky, which then pitted the paint of vehicles and homes in the neighborhood.

For the proposed new developments, city officials hope a combination of city spending on infrastructure and a new neighborhood improvement plan will help unlock enough state money to make the projects viable. And they hope the synchronicity of the projects’ parallel development, along with city efforts to improve the contaminated site, will make the project appealing to state officials.

Gateway Apartments is actually the third attempt by developer Jonesboro Investments Corp., of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, to build at that site, said Carl Malysz, the city’s director of community development.

Company officials have applied for tax credits from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority twice but were turned down, most recently early in 2013,

Malysz said part of the reason for the denials was the lack of documented community investment in the neighborhood and the lack of an improvement plan. But city officials will apply $55,000 in community development block grants to improve infrastructure in the neighborhood.

The city adopted a Ninth Street Neighborhood Park plan in October that outlined goals and strategies for improving the neighborhood.

The developer hopes to qualify for the Internal Revenue Service’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program, which provides a financial incentive for private developers of affordable housing. The state agency said it plans to make recommendations for those funds Feb. 27.

Malysz said the developer would work with the local Thrive Alliance agency, which would manage and eventually own the affordable-housing project.

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