Portage supports affordable housing development on East Centre
See the MLive article here
By Tom Haroldson | Special to MLive
PORTAGE, MI – A $15.4 million affordable housing community on East Centre Avenue has the green light to build following rezoning and financial approval by the city.
Full Circle Communities, of Chicago, won Portage City Council approval of rezoning 1521, 1603 and 1615 E. Centre Ave., from one-family residential, multiple-family residential and office service to planned development for its proposed Selinon Park development of a 74-unit affordable supportive housing community in three buildings.
The Selinon Park project will help much-needed affordable housing in Portage, said Carl Kunda, representing the company. The developer decided on the Portage-Kalamazoo market because of the need for such housing, a strong school district and economy and the various amenities from parks to the Portage Community Center just down the road.
“We simply wanted a great place to put housing,” Kunda said.
An earlier version of this story reported the project as $12 million based on comments at the council meeting, but the developer said later that the correct cost will be $15.4 million.
The three buildings offering 74 apartments will have one to four bedrooms. One third will be for residents with physical or sensory impairments or special needs; a third for under-housed working families burdened by high housing costs and at risk of being homeless; and a third for households whose annual income is between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income.
The Selinon Park community will also include pedestrian and recreation paths, including one that connects to nearby Lovers Lane; landscaped common areas; an outdoor recreation area for children; and an existing historic home at 1521 E. Centre that will be maintained for the property manager.
All of the units will have rents restricted to no more than 30 percent of the resident’s household income. In particular, the developer proposes 32 of the apartments will be for households with an income 30 percent below the area median income and 42 will be for households of incomes between 30 and 60 percent of that level.
Council members applauded Full Circle for considering Portage and for providing housing that is in great need.
“There is a greater community misunderstanding that there are no people financially struggling in Portage; that everyone is doing just fine,” said Councilwoman Claudette Reid. “Well, we do have a lot of people who are struggling, a lot of people in which housing is a consideration.”
Not everyone has bought into the project, though. Todd Corstange, representing long-time Portage grower Corstange Greenhouse, said he’s not sure whether he and his family business support it but they do have several concerns.
“As long as it does not harm my ability to do business in town…as long as it contributes to success, I can be for it,” Corstange told the council, adding that he was concerned the city had given conflicting information to his father about the project. “I’m kind of in the middle of the road right now.”
Corstange said his business has experienced problems involving another apartment complex nearby and wants to make sure they don’t have the same issues with Selinon Park.
Kunda said that “security is one of our No. 1 concerns,” adding that having the property manager living on site, security cameras and lighting around the complex and communicating with the residents will help avoid issues with businesses and residents nearby.
“Our low-income households want to live in an area that is safe, too,” he said. “We want to be a good partner with Portage and our neighbors.”
As part of the development, the City Council approved a payment in lieu of taxes tax exemption (PILOT) that gives the company a tax break while still paying a minimum of $34,071 a year to area taxing units over the 35-year period. The city estimates that the first-year PILOT payment to taxing units, such as the city, Portage District Library, Portage schools and county, will total $45,356.
A PILOT has been previously approved by the city for several developments including Hearthside, Spring Manor, The Crossings II and Milham Meadows.
In a related move Tuesday, the council tabled action to rezone 480 Admiral Ave.; 514, 520, 526, 532, 606, 612, 618 Dorset St.; 6843, 422, 426 Dorset St.; 6979 S. Westnedge, all from various zonings to one-family residential.
Developer Chad Scott has proposed building at least one two-family attached residential duplex along the northern portion of the property near Westnedge and Romence Road Parkway.
The rezoning has been kicked around for months, is supported by several area residents but is opposed by Scott who said it restricts his use of the land. He suggested he might have to sue the city if he can’t build the duplex proposal.
After a lengthy public hearing and discussion, the council voted to table the rezoning request pending more discussion between the administration and Scott and area residents.