Indianapolis-based real estate developer TWG Development plans to build an affordable apartment building aimed at seniors and the visually impaired on the same block as its $39 million redevelopment of the old Ford Motor Co. plant on East Washington Street.
TWG is seeking federal tax credits through the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority in order to help construct the $11.1 million project. TWG's application is still under review, with a decision expected in the coming months.
The project, called Line Lofts, calls for 63 affordable senior apartments on 1.5 acres at 1141 and 1214 Southeastern Avenue. Part of the project will face East Washington Street. It would replace an industrial building and a vacant lot.
The first floor of the project calls for 6,100 square feet of commercial space, which TWG plans to lease to the new Indianapolis headquarters of Visually Impaired Preschool Services, which provides early intervention services for children with blindness and low vision.
TWG’s development director, Jonathan Ehlke, said TWG learned through working with VIPS that apartments are not frequently “designed with any kind of consideration to those with visual impairment.”
So TWG met with Bosma Enterprises, which provides training and employment for the blind and visually impaired, to get help designing a building that is sensitive to the needs of the visually impaired. It plans to set up a referral program with Bosma Enterprises and other organizations that serve the visually impaired in order to find tenants for the building.
How do you create an apartment building that’s better for the visually impaired? Ehlke said it comes down to simple changes.
For example, TWG will put different types of flooring in front of certain areas in order to signify changes in room function. For instance, a certain type of flooring would be near all of the elevators, signifying a person has arrived there. The pathways in the building will contain right angles making it easier to navigate.
There will be a parking spot right outside the door that’s designated for Uber or Lyft. Each apartment will be equipped with an Amazon Alexa, which allows residents to make voice-activated commands to accomplish various household tasks. The project will also contain a dog park in order to serve guide dogs.
“They’re very subtle design enhancements, but they’re very significant if you’re a visually impaired person,” Ehlke said.
One doesn’t have to be blind or visually impaired to live in the building, which will target low-income residents aged 55 and up.
“What’s great about all these services is they’re not restrictive in any way,” he said. “They can be enjoyed by both if you’re visually impaired or not visually impaired.”
If TWG is awarded the federal tax credits, it will be required to charge affordable rents for 15 years. In projects financed by tax credits, the credits are sold on the open market, usually to a bank, and the proceeds are used by the developer to finance the project.