Downtown apartments loan gets Council approval despite residents’ protests

A controversial downtown Columbus apartment complex is moving forward with a $5.8 million loan from the city, despite a sometimes angry crowd largely protesting the spending.

The Columbus Redevelopment Commission last month recommended the forgivable loan be approved for developer Flaherty & Collins to build an estimated 50-apartment complex on the small lot at Sixth and Washington Streets beside the Cummins parking garage. But because the loan is greater than the commission’s $500 thousand dollar spending limit, it came before the City Council this week.

The developer plans to spend about $11 million for the project, but are turning to the city for another $5.8 million in financing to make the project work. The company, which is also building the Taylor apartments next to the Bartholomew County Jail, plans to construct a complex with first floor commercial space and apartments above. The apartments are expected to rent for local market rates, in the neighborhood of $1,300 a month according to the developer.

Many residents spoke out against the project, with concerns about why the city is subsidizing a higher-end apartment building, when there is such a need for affordable, low-income housing in the city. They also were upset about the loss of the green space on the empty lot.

The loan funds would come from the city’s tax increment financing district revenue, which comes from the growth in property taxes in the city’s special taxing units.

The Columbus City Council gave its first approval to the loan at its meeting this week, approving three separate but related measures. Four council members voted for the proposals which created a special taxing unit at the property, a development agreement with Flaherty & Collins, and the loan itself. Council members Jerone Wood and Grace Kestler voted against the proposals. Councilwoman Elaine Hilber abstained from the votes because she works for Cummins.

Photo courtesy of Hadley Fruits for Landmark Columbus Foundation.