Developer lands tax credits to help save historic church

March 1, 2018

A locally based developer has been awarded nearly $900,000 in affordable tax credits to help finance a $10.2 million project involving a historic church on the far-east side that the owner had threatened to demolish.

TWG Development LLC was among 50 developers throughout the state who in December submitted applications to the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority seeking a total of $39 million in federal assistance for various projects.

The authority on Feb. 22 selected 17 projects to receive the federal tax credits. The credits are awarded annually to developers to incentivize private investment in affordable housing. Investors buy the credits, generating revenue to fund projects.

TWG sought $886,849 in incentives to help finance the redevelopment of the St. John United Church of Christ building and land for a senior housing project.

The project calls for 60 apartment units, not in the church building, but to be constructed on the north end of the property.

TWG is partnering with locally based T&H Investments on the project, said Jonathan Ehlke,  TWG’s development director, in a written statement.

“German Church Senior Apartments represents a creative solution to save an iconic structure while providing much needed affordable housing for seniors in the area,” Ehlke said. “There has been an incredible amount of support for the development, and we’re very glad to be moving forward.”

Following a drawn-out drama concerning the structure’s fate, TWG agreed in September 2016 to purchase the building and land. The deal, however, was contingent upon the awarding of the tax credits for the project.

TWG’s original proposal to convert the church into a 60-unit senior housing complex wasn’t among the 16 chosen for credits last year. Still, TWG has kept the property under contract and has maintained site control while it again awaited another round of selections.

In the meantime, however, TWG changed its plans for the site. The developer instead plans to sell the church for $1 to an undisclosed not-for-profit, which will convert the building into its headquarters while TWG uses the adjacent property for the apartments.

Cumberland officials said they are pleased the project finally is moving forward.

“A lot of people came together to make this happen,” Town Manager April Fisher said in written comments. “It’s been a struggle, but it’s been worth it to preserve this remarkable historic building."

The church sits at the corner of German Church Road and East Washington Street, straddling Hancock and Marion counties.

For more than a century, the land in question has been the site of the Tudor Gothic Revival-style church, which once was known as Deutsche Evangelische St. Johannes Kirche. It opened in 1855, initially serving German immigrants who farmed the surrounding area. That structure was replaced later that century, and the current building opened in 1914.
Amid dwindling membership, the congregation in October 2016 conducted its last service in the church. The owners wanted to demolish the church to make the land more attractive to sell, but TWG stepped in. The congregation continues to meet at a temporary site, the Muesing Activity Center at Prospect Street and Carroll Road, until funds can be raised to build a new church.



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