What if I told you that there an option to fully restore a building in the much-discussed and rising-from-the-dead area of Franklin Street known as the Uptown Arts District?
What if I told you that all it would take to invigorate this seven-story property was $500,000 out of the city's coffers? More technically, the money would come from the riverboat funds.
Well, that's the decision that's been facing both the Redevelopment Commission and the City Council. The total price tag of the ArtSpace project in the old Warren Building is about $13.5 million, with about $12.5 million coming in tax credits from the state, a grant and historic tax credits.
That left a funding gap of around $1 million for ArtSpace to do the project as originally presented. Going from zero to $12.5 million is no small task, I assure you.
Of that $1 million is about $500,000 in private philanthropy that ArtSpace is confident it will get, most of which is already secured and/or pledged.
That leaves the city to come up with $500,000. All things considered, that's a deal that's too easy to pass up.
The Redvelopment Commission this week passed $200,000 for a project associated with the restoration. Next up is the City Council, which is asked to give $300,000 which would go to a community space on the Warren Building's seventh floor.
At last week's council meeting, Councilman Chris Schwanke rightly questioned whether or not this would be a true community space or just a community space for the building's tenants. He's right to ask - or demand - that city money going toward a component project should make that portion open to the general public, not just future tenants of the building.
To me, though, approving this amount is a bit of a no-brainer, and I hope the council winds up agreeing.
The Warren Building sits right smack dab in the middle of an area that's long been targeted as crucial to Michigan City's redevelopment. That building sitting in the state it's in makes moving forward in the Uptown Arts District a difficult prospect. Of course, the building could always be razed and something built in its place, but taking steps toward preserving it - and ultimately at only a $500,000 direct pricetag to city taxpayers? This seems like an easy decision.
Now, I'm not saying that we need to make it rain with riverboat funds or anything. I appreciate the financially prudent minds who are always cautious when it comes to using those funds.
But a common theme used to support not using the funds is, "We don't always know if the riverboat will be there."
That's true. There's no reason to believe at this point that Blue Chip is ever going anywhere, but one never knows what the future holds.
My thing is, not knowing if the riverboat will always be there makes this a great opportunity to pursue not only a project like ArtSpace, but also the proposed new Michigan City Police Department on Michigan Boulevard.
The fact is, we have the riverboat now and the funds associated with it, using that money toward important capital improvement projects in the city is pretty much exactly what that money is there for.
So, please, continue to be vigilant and choosy about how riverboat funds are dispersed.
But, to me, this one seems like an easy call.
Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-219-214-4170.