Proposed development fails to secure tax credit

SALEM – The Salem Pointe apartment development planned for the city’s east end off of Pershing Street and Butcher Road failed to secure the housing tax credit financing sought for the project.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency announced the 2013 housing tax credit recipients on Wednesday.

The project by the NRP Group of Cleveland known as Salem Pointe just missed out in the new rental units pool for rural areas, earning a spot on a waiting list if additional funds become available.

“I’m disappointed that they didn’t get funded,” Mayor John Berlin said when contacted Wednesday afternoon.

He had not had a chance to study the information on the Ohio Housing Finance Agency website regarding the tax credits program, but he said “I don’t think the NRP Group failed in their effort to promote the project.”

Salem City Council had agreed in March to rezone two sections of a 67.7-acre tract the developer had an option to purchase, with 6.9 acres south of the East Pershing Street extension to Butcher Road rezoned from commercial to multiple family residential. Another 14.3 acres just east of the deadends of Oak Street, Tanglewood, Kennedy and Edgewood drives was rezoned from multiple family residential to single family residential to form a buffer zone between current homes and the proposed low to moderate-income apartment complex.

Plans called for construction of 90 units in two-story garden walk-up style buildings on six acres, with plans for future development of more apartments and single-family homes on another 29 acres. At least 32 acres on the western half of the tract where a wetlands and creek were located were planned for preservation through the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

If no money becomes available this year, the project can be resubmitted next year.

Mary Hada, the NRP Group developer who had attended many meetings with Salem city government and the public regarding the project, said in e-mails on Wednesday, “We may submit next year, but we have to assess the situation after the final Qualified Allocation Plan is distributed by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. The first meeting for the 2014 QAP draft is June 20, after that I’m not sure what their timetable is projected to be.”

According to the results, the Salem Pointe project finished third behind projects in Ashtabula and Brown counties with a score of 82 in the New Rental Units Pool for Rural Areas. The top project scored an 87 and the second project had a score of 85. Two other projects had scores of 82 out of a pool of 17 projects, but the Salem Pointe project earned the only spot on the waiting list for the pool.

“I don’t have the breakdown of scoring, so I’m not sure why we missed by 3 points, but we will evaluate it when we have all of the information,” Hada said in an e-mail.

Arlyne Alston, Director of Communications and Marketing with the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, said the final scoring won’t be sent to applicants until Friday. She explained all applications are scored competitively and only so much money is available in each pool. If one of the two projects which received funding in the New Rental Units Pool for Rural Areas pulls out, Salem Pointe will be next in line.

Salem Pointe was seeking a tax credit amount of $1,215,000. The pool had a credit amount of $1,570,097 on reserve.

When asked if the company planned to continue pursuing the project, Hada said in an e-mail, “We will have more information and have the ability to confirm in the coming months.”

Neither the mayor nor Larry Kosiba, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, were ready to say the project was dead at this point.

“I don’t think it’s completely gone, but I don’t know what the waiting list means and how long they’ll have to wait,” Berlin said.

Kosiba said the application was competitive and that was good news. Now they need to find out where the points were deficient and see if they can find a way to improve the proposal for next year.

From an economic development standpoint, Kosiba said he was disappointed because of what the project could mean to the city, with an increased property value for that piece of land, a pump station in the area which could lead to more development because of the infrastructure and possibly opening up 90 apartment rentals in town. He said having housing and having a hotel are two key elements in attracting oil and gas personnel to an area.

He said they need to find a way to get this project funded or find someone else interested in investing $13 million into the community, which was the estimated investment NRP would have been making with construction of the apartments and the infrastructure.

The zoning changes carried sunset clauses, giving NRP two years to get the ground turned. Berlin wasn’t sure if that meant the project had to be completed or started, but said if the funding came into place next year and an extension was needed, he didn’t think anyone on council would stop a $13 million investment. He also said he didn’t think council would object if another developer came along to develop the property and wanted to put in market rate apartments or a condominium complex.