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Ground broken for Rock City Lofts

December 22nd, 2016

By Joseph Slacian | The Paper of Wabash County

In an unconventional ceremony, ground was broken Wednesday morning, Dec. 14, for the Rock City Loft project in downtown Wabash.

Officials gathered around a wheelbarrow filled with sand and six shovels placed in the former Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles building on East Market Street for the ceremony.

Mayor Scott Long, Keith Gillenwater, president and CEO of the Economic Development Group of Wabash County, and officials from several state-level organizations participated in the event.

The Rock City Loft Project, part of the city’s Stellar Community Grant program, seeks to create 41 senior living apartments in the complex. The apartments, 25-45 E. Market St., will be available for local residents 55-years and older.

Prior to the groundbreaking, about 50 people gathered at the Wabash County Historical Museum to hear remarks from Long and Gillenwater, as well as Craig Wells, Chief Financial Officer of the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority, and Amy Burmeister, board member of the Partnership for Affordable Housing.

Long said, “We’re glad to see this project started. It’s been a long road to where we’re at right now, but I think we’re getting ready to move at light speed, which is good for the community.”

Gillenwater believes the development is a plus for downtown Wabash.

“It’s a great opportunity for downtown to have 41 new housing units,” he told those gathered at the museum. “It’s a centerpiece for the Stellar Community projects. It’s the first of the major projects to break ground. It’s exciting to be able to see that.

“Forty-one new units in downtown mean new residents are coming downtown to shop in our businesses.”

He also noted that the project will bring a “creative use for four buildings downtown.”

“One of the things I hear from my counterparts and visitors alike, is that people come to town and drive through Wabash, they see we still have our original buildings and we’re still using them and they still have life in them. That’s a great thing to hear, and I think that’s a testimony to everyone here.”

Wells discussed the work that IHCDA does around the state.

When discussing the local project, he said, “It’s an exciting time to live, work and play in Wabash. We were pleased to join our fellow state agencies in 2014 in naming Wabash a Stellar Community.”

In addition to its work with the Rock City Lofts, IHCDA last month began working with the city on the Wabash Riverfront Development which seeks to bring a riverfront courtyard and terraced steps to provide access to the river and the development of access from Wabash River.

“These accomplishments are just a few of the many celebrated by Wabash over the last few years,” Wells said. “It’s clear that it demonstrates your focus comprehensive community development.”

To help the Rock City Lofts project, he noted, IHCDA awarded the Partnership for Affordable Housing $716,000 in Housing Tax Credits (HTC) annually for the next 10 years.

“Our HTCs are generally considered the most important tool we have to encourage the development of affordable housing, and as such, they are highly competitive,” Wells said. “Each year we award tax credits which go to the development of close to a thousand additional units of affordable housing in Indiana.

“With that said, these 41 units that will be the Rock City Lofts will join the affordable housing options in Indiana and add to the impressive portfolio of Partnership for Affordable Housing. Additionally, I’m pleased that this will continue the momentum and enthusiasm here in Wabash.”

Burmeister noted that while the groundbreaking ceremony took place Wednesday morning, work on the project actually began in late October.

“All of you know that projects like the Rock City Lofts just don’t come together,” she said. “They are a project of vision and tenacity.”

In addition to the 41 housing units, Burmeister said, the complex will also have a Living Well in Wabash County will have a dedicated space on the first floor for apartment residents and Wabash citizens to use.

“This is no longer a vision or intention, but it is a construction project,” she said. “We’re really excited to be a part of the future of this vibrant city.”

Following the groundbreaking, officials gave tours of the buildings for those who wished. Most of the buildings have been gutted, and some of the floors have either foundations in place where new walls will go, or planks on the ground where the walls will be built. An area for a new elevator system has already been marked off, and plans to remove an old elevator are in place.

The one and two-bedroom apartments will feature secure entries, hardwood floors, open kitchens with pantries and high-speed Internet.

Opening of the apartments is scheduled for the fall of 2017, with pre-leasing starting in the summer of 2017.