Apartment project planned for south end of Monon

The local arm of a California-based developer of affordable housing is planning to invest up to $10 million in a 60-unit complex at 20th Street and the Monon Trail.

Groundbreaking on the three-building complex could happen as soon as next spring, said Nina Lusk, a principal in Newport Indiana, a local entity created by California-based Newport Partners in 2008. The developer will find out in February if the state approves the sale of affordable housing tax credits to finance the project.

The one-, two- and three-bedroom units at the complex, to be known as Newport on Monon, will be primarily for residents who meet income qualifications that come along with the credits. Twelve of the 60 units will be townhouse units. The balance will be flats. Eleven units will be for young adults who have aged out of the foster care system.

Newport Indiana’s only previous project to date is the Willard Park Revitalization project, which it did in conjunction with Riley Area Development Corp., a local community development corporation. That project resulted in 25 units of housing for young adults who had aged out of the foster system. The units were in newly constructed or rehabilitated homes in a four-block, near-eastside area bounded by Washington Street on the south, New York Street on the north, Hendricks Place on the east and State Avenue on the west.

VP The developer decided to move forward after a pair of studies found housing was a major need at the south end of the Monon Trail.

Lusk said the impetus for the new project was a pair of studies conducted in the last year that said housing was a major need in the community at the south end of the Monon Trail. One of the studies was conducted by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Another was conducted by the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development. Both noted the area’s potential, in part because it is near a proposed light rail line.

Newport on Monon won’t include any retail space, but Lusk said her firm has an option to purchase nearby land where it intends to do a second phase of the project that would include some market-rate units and community or retail space.

The land for the first phase was purchased earlier this year from Martindale Brightwood LLC, an entity created by Mike Higbee, a former director of the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development who is now involved in developing projects in older areas in need of renewal.

Higbee’s success with a similar project built on a brownfield site bode’s well for Lusk’s project.

Earlier this year a partnership that Higbee formed with local general contractor Charles Garcia finished developing the National Apartments, a $7.5 million complex of primarily affordable units at 21st Street and Yandes Street, about three blocks from the Newport project. The National is a block from the Monon.

“[Newport’s] site is much more favorable in the long run because it’s closer to 16th Street and it’s right on the Monon,” Higbee said. “Hopefully, it will have light rail going by it someday,” he said, referring to the ongoing effort to improve the city’s mass transit system.

Being a block off the Monon hasn’t hurt Hibee's project. He said its 62 units, four of which are market rate, are leased up. “We projected it would take until March 2012.” The tax-credit financed project has studio, one- and two-bedroom units. The market-rate units rent for $700 a month. The others range from $280 to $650.

Higbee said tenants are coming from the near-downtown area. He said the key to success is making sure such projects are well-managed and that the units are quality.

Between late 2004 and spring of 2008 Higbee was involved in the development of 40 market-rate, single-family homes in the area. After the economic downturn, he shifted the focus to affordable units, but he thinks the experiment with market-rate housing proved the area is viable.


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