New Pal apartment complex nears final approval

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A rendering shows what the new apartment complex will look like in New Palestine. Those backing the project say the structures look more like single family homes than apartments.

NEW PALESTINE — Hancock Regional Hospital is working with a developer to create a $60 million upscale apartment complex on 27 acres near the new Healthway Park complex.

Officials with the project are in the final stages of getting design approval from the New Palestine planning commission. The upscale apartment complex will be built behind the Hancock Wellness Center complex near the southwest corner of U.S. 52 and Mt. Comfort Road.

The board heard about the number of apartment units, 282, some slight modification in the design, and when the first of three phases would be completed during a recent plan commission meeting.

The project is already a “go,” town officials said, and the developer, the Becovic Management Group of Fishers, is in the final stage of ironing out the design details.

Harold Gibson, a registered land surveyor in Greenfield, represented Hancock Health, which owns the property, and the developer at the meeting and told the plan commission that construction on the first phase of the project would begin in mid-2022 with completion set for spring of 2023.

The upscale apartment complex will have 102 single-bedroom, 148 two-bedroom and 32 three-bedroom units with rent ranging from $1,100 to $1,900 a month.

“There are no park settings in here,” Gibson said. “These units are not intended for a large family setting — the market is the young professional who does not want the responsibility of ownership.”

Plan commission president Rwan Walley, addressing concerns of some who attended the meeting, insisted the project will be a top-notch development.

He did not find any objection to the creation of more single units or the minor architecture design changes the builder has suggested. All changes need to be approved by the planning commission.

“This is not a meeting to determine if this will happen, they’ve already been approved,” Walley said. “This meeting is to discuss the minor modifications.”

In 2020, New Palestine officials approved standards and regulations governing future development across the 66 acres Hancock Health owns in town. That included uses that would be permitted there, including residential ones.

For those who are not familiar with the project, created by Hancock Health, Walley referred to the apartment complex as a good project that the town will have a true partnership with.

“We think we’re doing what is best for the town,” Walley said. “Nothing has been rammed through.”

Dale Wagner, a New Palestine resident who lives near the project, said community members were not really given fair notice and details about the apartment complex.

“I hate to use the word secrecy, but that’s kind of the way I feel about it,” Wagner said. ”There are some folks who have no idea this is going on — it was extreme under the radar.”

Town council and planning commission member Angie Fahrnow agreed with Wagner and said she, too, was not thrilled to learn about the project after she came on board with the council. Fahrnow feels the project was kept quiet, from the community because those in charge knew community members don’t want an apartment complex in the area.

She noted the council was dealing with other town concerns and she really didn’t get an opportunity to focus on the development of the plans until recently. She said that now that she’s had time to look into the proposal, she’s not thrilled.

“Why not just roll out the red carpet for the east side of Indianapolis to come to New Palestine?” Fahrnow said at the meeting.

She visited the builder’s site in Hamilton County and has investigated the project and admitted she has concerns. Fahrnow feels it’s important community members have a chance to voice their opinion on the project and be heard before final approval is granted next month.

Town manager Jim Robinson noted while many may be surprised by the announcement of the apartment complex in New Palestine, the plans have always been for Hancock Health to develop the area when they purchased the land for the wellness center years ago and the planned unit development was approved.

“That incorporates a lot of things that can be built there,” Robinson said.

Robinson noted the exact plans have been sitting on his desk since 2020 and were talked about in previous meetings.

“This is just one part of what they’re doing,” Robinson said.

Robinson noted the town will see several developments brought to the area as a result of the Healthway Park complex and that the area includes zoning for apartments.

He said the proposal is not typical of many apartment complexes.

“You can call them an apartment, but I like the term ‘choice of living’ because with as much as a $1,900 a month rent, these people can afford a house, but they choose not to,” Robinson said.

Officials with the Southern Hancock school district are also voicing concerns about the impact of the development.

“Residential developments inside this TIF (tax increment financing) district are deeply concerning for our schools,” said Wes Anderson, communications director for the district.

Anderson noted like their public safety partners, the district will be required to provide services to any students who will live in the apartments while not receiving additional property tax revenue.

“The school corporation will receive property tax revenue equal to the farm field that has always been there,” Anderson said, referring to the way TIF districts divert property tax revenue from new development to things like infrastructure improvements. “This has the potential to significantly impact the district’s operational budget.”

The corporation will always welcome all students to the classrooms, Anderson said. However, the district wants more information from the town.

The the plan commission will have to approve an amendment to the town’s development ordinance before the project officially moves forward, something that is expected to pass at the next planning commission meeting set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022.

Anyone wanting to know more about the project can visit town hall and speak with Robinson who said he’s happy to discuss and share information on the plans. Robinson noted the developer will be at the next town council meeting set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15, at town hall.