Rendering for The Annex Group's North Washington Street development

This rendering shows The Annex Group's proposed four-story, 51-unit affordable-housing development just north of downtown Kokomo, at 910½ N. Washington St. and including the surrounding area. The rendering shows the property from The Industrial Heritage Trail, to the east.

City and private development officials Thursday broke ground on a four-story, affordable housing complex located just north of downtown Kokomo.

The complex, which has been approved for nearly $1.3 million in state tax credits and received a 10-year tax abatement, is set to open in summer 2020.

It will bring 51 units to an area along the Industrial Heritage Trail, in the 900 block of North Washington Street. Heading the development, named Union at Washington, is The Annex Group, which already sports two Kokomo housing developments.

Those include The Annex of Kokomo (Indiana University Kokomo student housing) and Kingston Square (a 68-unit affordable housing facility).

As an affordable-housing development, it will be based on residents’ income levels, offering units with rates based on 30% of the average median income (AMI) to 80%. An 80% AMI rent would be around $800 per month for a three-bedroom unit.

Considered the largest area of open space along the Industrial Heritage Trail, the project will be a roughly 10-minute walk to downtown Kokomo.

Amenities will include a community center, fitness room and playground area. There will be a sidewalk around the entire structure and a patio area and bike racks on the building’s trail side.

City officials have said the development is needed because Kokomo’s occupancy rate for apartments is above 95%.

In November 2018, the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority announced that $1.292 million in tax credits and federal funding had been approved for the project.

The Kokomo Common Council earlier this year approved a 10-year, 100 percent tax abatement for the project.

The abatement, the first of its kind in Kokomo but a tactic becoming more common across Indiana, was recognized by the city’s Redevelopment Commission (RDC) this week, a necessary step since it is located inside a Tax Increment Financing, of TIF, district.

A TIF district is a specific geographic area where property tax revenue raised on new assessed value is captured by the city’s RDC for investment in the TIF area.

Therefore, once the complex starts paying property taxes, that money will be captured by the RDC for investment in the TIF area, which runs on either side of North Main Street north of downtown Kokomo.

Kokomo Common Council Vice President Mike Kennedy, when describing the reasons for the abatement, said the project “will be constructed on one of the city’s brownfields [which] has sat vacant for many, many years.”

In addition, the state tax credits, said Kennedy, were given “in part due to the anticipation of strong support and partnership with the community and the city of Kokomo.”

Councilman Steve Whikehart, who has since vacated his seat, also spoke in favor of the abatement, citing the need to attract the roughly 9,000 people who commute to Kokomo to work but leave at the end of the day to live elsewhere.

It is the city's hope that developments like this one will attract new residents and not just people already living in other Kokomo apartments or homes.

Whikehart said the abatement is for a property “that is underutilized, an eyesore and currently not generating taxes.” He said the project also “meets a very real demand for three-bedroom housing, and it meets an even greater demand for affordable housing.”

He said “abatements of the past are just that – they’re outdated.”

Kokomo Deputy Mayor David Tharp, meanwhile, said the development improves what was “a challenging site.”

“The parcel currently pays no property taxes,” remarked Tharp. “Therefore, taxpayers will experience a benefit from this development in that it will provide much needed affordable housing for our community, the parcel will be brought back to productive use and it will pay taxes in 10 years.”

George Myers can be reached at 765-454-8585, by email at george.myers@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @gmyerskt.

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George Myers covers city and county government. He joined the Kokomo Tribune on November 18, 2014.

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