State econ. group gives approval for UB grant

A state grant for the redevelopment of a block of buildings on East Franklin Street, in Huntington, received final approval from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation on Friday, April 7.

The UB Block project had been recommended for funding by the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority.

The developer spearheading the project says work on the buildings should begin soon.

“The plan right now is to start this summer, July or August,” says John Anderson of Anderson partners.

The $1.6 million in Indiana Regional Cities Initiative funding is conditional upon the receipt of federal historic tax credits, but there’s not expected to be any problem there.

Receipt of the tax credits will be a “multi-step process” beginning with listing the UB Block on the National Register of Historic Places, says Bryn Keplinger, director of Community Development and Redevelopment in Huntington. That process will not delay the project, he adds.

“As far as the Regional Cities goes, this is it,” he says. “This is basically the last approval.”

The city, which now owns the block of buildings, has been working on environmental testing and remediation to prepare to hand the structure over to a private developer.

“We’ve actually been working pretty much behind the scenes,” Keplinger says.

Renovation of the property will be done by Anderson Partners, based in Indianapolis.

“The city will be gifting the property to the developer,” Keplinger says.

Anderson says work on the buildings will be extensive.

“We’ll keep some walls and the stairs, but other than that it’s a complete gut job,” he says.

The UB Block at 48 E. Franklin St. consists of three separate buildings across from the Huntington County Courthouse. Once complete, it will house 35 market rate apartments, the Pathfinder Services Creative Abilities art studio and Huntington University’s entrepreneurship programs.

The apartments should be ready for occupancy by September of 2018, Anderson says.

The Indiana Regional Cities Initiative, spearheaded by then-Gov. Mike Pence, is designed to encourage Hoosier cities to work together to transform their regions into nationally-recognized destinations to live, work and play.

Three regions — northeast, north central and southwest — were each selected to receive $42 million in matching Regional Cities funds.