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October 10, 2012

New Albany senior living center gets public backing by slim margin

New Albany clarifying intentions for site once planned for River View development

NEW ALBANY — The backing of a proposed senior housing development for low-income residents was again a point of debate in New Albany on Tuesday.

By a 3-2 margin, the New Albany Redevelopment Commission voted to support the Legacy at Riverside project when it comes up for state review for tax credits later this year.

The commission took similar action last year, though the New Albany City Council later passed a resolution requesting that the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, or IHCDA, deny the application for credits.

The developer behind the project is The Sterling Group, and it was denied credits by IHCDA. But the group intends to reapply later this year with a decision likely coming in February from the state.

A rehabilitation of the former Reisz Furniture building off Main Street as well as the construction of new facilities are part of The Sterling Group’s plan for the Legacy at Riverside.

The firm has scaled back the project slightly from 74 to 71 units.

Those who disagree with the project site an over abundance of low-income housing in the city. New Albany City Councilman and redevelopment member Kevin Zurschmiede has been one of the strongest opponents of the plan, and voted against the supporting measure Tuesday.

“My constituents are against any more low-income housing,” he said.

Additionally, he questioned whether the guaranteed 50 parking spaces for the development would be enough. Though IHCDA would mandate the Legacy at Riverside remain a senior living facility for at least 30 years, Zurschmiede said after that time frame it could house a different clientele with more of a demand for parking.

“If other development occurs around, then the parking garage is going to go away,” he said.

Council President and commission member Diane McCartin-Benedetti also voted against the redevelopment measure. She said the council opposition to the project was based in part on the property tax revenue that would be lost if the development is constructed. She said one idea is that the city should purchase the lot and market it for projects that could better increase the property tax base.

The Legacy at Riverside has been backed by Mayor Jeff Gahan, and the parking allotment was reviewed and approved by the New Albany Board of Zoning Appeals. Redevelopment member Adam Dickey said that if parking is mandated for every project, than “we’ll have to tear down every building down in downtown” every time a restaurant is added.

The commission has committed $100,000 to improving alleys and sidewalks for the development. To qualify for residency, people would have to be 55 or older and earn between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income.

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