Closing the gap: Thrive Alliance hopes to build 128 affordable housing units in Columbus

Mike Wolanin | The Republic An exterior view of Columbus Transitional Care and Rehabilitation, 2100 Midway St., in Columbus, Ind., Thursday, April 2, 2020. The property may be demolished and repurposed as affordable housing for low-income families and seniors.

Thrive Alliance has unveiled plans to tear down a vacant nursing home in Columbus to build a housing complex for low-income families and seniors.

The proposed development, located at 2100 Midway St., could potentially include up to 128 affordable housing units, which would be a significant step forward in the city’s efforts to expand affordable housing.

Housing Partnerships Inc., a non-profit that does business as Thrive Alliance, bought the 7.6-acre property for $1.5 million on March 22 and plans to apply for federal Low Income Housing Credits and accept Section 8 vouchers.

On Wednesday, the Columbus Plan Commission voted to issue a favorable recommendation to rezone the property to allow for the development. Next, the rezoning request will go before the Columbus City Council.

“We’re still in the concept (phase), trying to get all the pieces put together of what we need,” said Kevin Johnson, executive director of Housing Partnerships at Thrive Alliance. “Of course, part of what will sway what we decide will be the housing study that Columbus is going through right now. …Our dream will be to put a multifamily project on the site.”

“Of course, everything is contingent on funding,” Johnson added.

Currently, Thrive Alliance is hoping to build a 64 units on the property for families that incorporates child care that also would be open to the community, Johnson said.

Additionally, the organization plans to build another 64 units for seniors with hopes of connecting the two areas and setting up an area for the seniors to connect with young people living in the family development to “help break down social isolation.”

However, the proposed housing development will not be ready in time to house the residents of the Villas apartments, which is going to close next year.

Johnson said he hopes to break ground on the project by late spring or summer 2025, “if everything falls into place,” with construction tentatively expected to take around 18 months. That would mean residents likely would not be moving in until at least late 2026.

Johnson said Thrive Alliance is planning to “go after multiple streams of funding” for the project, which is estimated to cost about $14 million.

The proposed affordable housing development comes as city is poised to lose 99 affordable housing units after BHI Senior Care announced that it would close the Villas apartments, 4101 Waycross Drive, next year.

The city also could be at risk of losing more affordable housing units within the next five years should property owners not extend their agreements or obtain new subsidies when their contracts with the federal government expire, according to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development database.

“We sure hope whatever inventory we lose, projects like what Thrive is proposing will help fill some of the void,” said Eric Frey, the city’s executive director of administration. “We’re hopeful that we’ll see other developers down the road as well looking at developing affordable housing and try to help make up for the loss that we’re going to see from the Villas.”