The 40-unit apartment building proposed for Broadway in Fortville would have 24-one-bedroom units, 13 two-bedroom units and three three-bedroom units. Monthly rents would range from about $600 to $1,100. It would also have a community center and private fitness facility. Provided imaage
The 40-unit apartment building proposed for Broadway in Fortville would have 24-one-bedroom units, 13 two-bedroom units and three three-bedroom units. Monthly rents would range from about $600 to $1,100. It would also have a community center and private fitness facility. Provided imaage
FORTVILLE — Discussion has opened on the centerpiece of Fortville’s Stellar Communities vision, and if early reaction is any indication, it could be in for a challenge.

The project involves a mixed-use building along Fortville’s main thoroughfare that would include 50 apartments and new commercial space. It was part of the successful Health and Heritage Region proposal that was one of two statewide to win the Stellar Communities sweepstakes last December. The designation has unlocked up to $15 million in grants over the next five years for Fortville, Greenfield and Hancock County.

At a meeting to discuss the Fortville project last week, the developer said the project aligns with Fortville’s comprehensive plan and would be an asset for the town.

According to skeptics, however, the area slated for the development cannot accommodate the additional residents. It also would lead to traffic congestion and would compromise safety, they say.

They also contend the buildings’ designs don’t match Fortville’s aesthetic. They say a retail project would be far more appropriate there than a residential one.

The proposed project site consists of a vacant lot along the 400 block of East Broadway Street and a former car wash property to its northeast across Elm Street.

Forza Commercial Real Estate, a firm that develops properties across central Indiana, is behind the project. Adam D’Angelo and John Fleming, principals for Forza, briefed a crowd at the Fortville Business Center last week on the changes to the project that local feedback spurred in the months following the Stellar award.

Fleming recalled that the project formerly consisted of one mixed-use building whose residential units would be rented to tenants making 60 percent of area median income.

Feedback suggested the building’s design was too monolithic and dominated too much of the street, Fleming continued. Reactions also included a need for market-rate residences, a better variety of unit sizes and a more fitting exterior aesthetic.

Now, the project consists of two buildings, Fleming said. One would be three stories of 40 moderate-income apartments while the other would offer about 7,000 square feet of commercial space below five to seven high-end apartments.

The moderate-income apartment building would have mostly one- and two-bedroom units, Fleming said, with far fewer of the three-bedroom units in the original plan. Efficiencies are no longer part of the proposal. Fleming said the apartments would be ideal for young people starting out their careers. The building would have a community center and private workout facility. Its exterior design was changed to better fit in with Fortville’s architecture, Fleming also said.

Fleming said the moderate-income apartment building would have 24 one-bedroom, 13 two-bedroom and three three-bedroom units. Monthly rents would range from about $600 to about $1,100. It would also have eight handicap-accessible units on the ground floor with private entrances.

Monthly rents for the high-end apartments in the other building would range from $1,300 to $1,800, Fleming said.

Fleming said the project would require a $10 million investment and would produce more than $100,000 in annual taxes.

Forza plans to submit the project to the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority, which administers a federal program awarding tax credits to help fund rent-restricted residential developments. Under the program’s rules, Forza’s project would be able to offer rents ranging from market-rate to 30 percent of area median income, Fleming said.

None of the rents would be voucher-based, Fleming said, adding more than half of the apartments would be for residents making $15 to $20 an hour.

Joy Skidmore, the project’s site manager, said the proposal needs to go before the Fortville Design Review Board and receive approval from the Hancock County Area Plan Commission and Fortville Town Council. If approved, Forza will submit the project to the state development authority’s tax credit program by the end of July.

Earl Bolander, who lives next to the proposed project, attended Forza’s recent meeting and said he doesn’t oppose the development of that area and that he’s been expecting it for years. But 48 new apartments is not the right development, he continued.

“There are other places in town you could’ve easily put an apartment building, but not right off of the busiest corner in Fortville,” he told Fleming and D’Angelo. “That place is screaming for retail.”

Tonya Drake Davis, who won her race in the recent Republican primary for a Fortville Town Council seat, said the town does need the kind of housing Forza is proposing, just not in that location.

While the project’s exterior has been redesigned, it continues to miss its mark, according to Davis and several other attendees.

“I think that does not look like Fortville and that is not what we want to see on our main corridor,” she said.

Fleming and D’Angelo said a wholly retail project at the site wouldn’t be financially feasible. Keeping it mostly residential simplifies construction and keeps costs practical, Fleming said.

“We can’t build a building that looks like this unless we save money in other ways,” Fleming said. “It’s just too expensive.”

When bringing commercial into the mix, laws come into play like fire codes, increasing the complexity of construction and sending building costs “through the roof,” he added.

Residential uses are also what the state development authority prefers to award tax credits to, Fleming continued.

Meeting attendees expressed concerns over adding more traffic to a neighborhood their kids play in as well. They also said it wouldn’t be realistic to expect motorists to parallel park along Broadway in front of the proposed building, although a reconfiguration of the road to reduce the number of lanes is expected to slow down traffic on the notoriously fast-traveled road.

Fortville resident Cindy Akers said the project would not only impact the neighborhood it’s in, but the entire trajectory of the town in a way that could compromise its quaintness in the future.

“I think that when we start out on the wrong foot, it can lead to a lot more problems,” she said.

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