But MVAH Partners may escape required Community Benefits Agreement
Crusader Staff Report
The developer of the proposed $11 million Broadway Lofts project in downtown Gary received approval for a $669,000 tax break and may not have to comply with a Community Benefits Agreement.
MVAH Partners, based in Westchester, Ohio, believes the firm should be exempt from honoring the CBA during the first phase of the Broadway Lofts development, saying the project was planned and funded before Gary’s CBA ordinance went into effect in 2019.
The Crusader did report in 2018 that the MVAH Partners applied for rental tax housing credits through Gary’s Redevelopment Office and applied for more loans from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to build up to 52 townhomes east of Broadway Lofts.
But the latest subsidy comes after the CBA ordinance went into effect, fueling questions of whether MVAH Partners should be held responsible for complying with the new law.
Last week, the Gary Common Council on Zoom approved a tax abatement for MVAH Partners for their delayed Broadway Lofts mixed-use development. The project is a three-story, multi-family complex with 38 loft-style apartments and 6,000 square feet space for retail and community use.
The Broadway Lofts development will replace the historic but crumbling Memorial Auditorium at Seventh and Broadway. Demolition of the historic structure began on Wednesday, August 26 with a backhoe tearing down the remaining walls of the building.
District 1 Council and acting Council President William Godwin abstained from voting, but in a report Godwin suggested that no one in Mayor Jerome Prince’s administration or the redevelopment office informed MVAH Partners about the CBA requirements earlier.
During the Zoom meeting, Prince said, “It’s my opinion and it’s been that from the beginning, that there were issues with the existing CBA and the most effective thing to do would be to repeal the present CBA and start over again and draft one acceptable to both council and administration that is friendlier to business,” Prince said at Tuesday’s meeting.
But questions remain over whether MVAH Partners should be required to comply with the CBA, which was implemented in 2019 at the end of Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson’s term. CBA requirements are applied when developers request a public subsidy on new projects.
There was concern from Black Lives Matter activists in Gary that MVAH Partners will skirt the CBA ordinance as they set out to build the Broadway Lofts.
Gary’s CBA ordinance gives residents a voice in opportunities to benefit from development projects in their city. Activists believe CBA ordinances protect communities from being exploited, by forcing developers to hire locally and partner with minority sub-contractors. CBA ordinances are popping up in cities across the country, including Chicago, where the Obama Presidential Center in the predominately Black South Shore and Woodlawn neighborhoods is to be built.
Under Gary’s CBA ordinance, developers must invest 15 percent of any tax abatement or public assistance into the neighborhood for improvements. The ordinance also requires developers to participate in an apprenticeship training program and provide health insurance to employees. Developers must also hire a percentage of the construction jobs to residents and must pay a living wage of $15.50.