Church renovation hits snag

Staff reports

CUMBERLAND — Plans to renovate a historic church just west of the Hancock County line are on hold after developers learned the project was passed over for federal affordable housing tax credits.

Indianapolis-based TWG Development LLC in September agreed to purchase the St. John United Church of Christ building and convert it into affordable senior housing units — what town leaders hoped was the end of a years-long battle over whether to demolish the deteriorating century-old structure.

The deal was contingent upon the awarding of affordable housing tax credits for the project, which didn’t make the first cut Thursday in the latest round of selections but remains on a wait list of five projects.

The federal credits are awarded annually to developers to incentivize private investment in affordable housing. Investors buy the credits, generating revenue to fund projects.

Out of 62 proposals in Indiana, only 16 were selected to receive the federal credits, illustrating the competitiveness of the program.

Cumberland town manager April Fisher noted there is nothing in the agreement with TWG that covers what happens if the project is put on a wait list, but she remains optimistic.

“My understanding is the projects on the wait list seem to be a shoo-in for 2018,” FIsher said, “but the question is, can these projects wait until 2018?”

TWG’s wait-listed $10.1 million could move up the list if one of the 2017 projects falls through for some reason, officials said.

“They have a second chance,” said Brad Meadows, spokesman for the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority, which administers the federal credits. “It’s rare, but it does happen.”

If it doesn’t, TWG still can reapply in November for the next round of credits.

TWG President Tony Knoble told IBJ Tuesday that the company remains committed to the project but acknowledged that church leaders could put the property back on the market.

“We’re pretty dependent on what the seller wants to do,” he said. “We’ve asked for an extension for control of the property. We want the project to work; it’s just unfortunate it didn’t get awarded. Maybe with some luck we’ll pull it together.”

Church officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TWG’s redevelopment of the building would end the uncertainty surrounding the future of the historic church structure at German Church Road and East Washington Street.

For more than a century, the land in question has been the site of the Tudor Gothic Revival-style church. 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 conducted its last service in the church. It 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.

Officials had said they would likely demolish the building to make the property more attractive to sell.

Other projects placed on the wait list include three in Hamilton County: the proposed Noblesville Granary Elevator and Lofts and Stoney Creek Senior Apartments, in addition to a redevelopment of the old Adams Township school in Sheridan.

The Indianapolis Business Journal contributed to this report.