Great News for the Odd Fellows Hall & U.B. Building Block

A rendering by Kil Architecture of the Odd Fellows Hall & U.B. Building block.

A rendering by Kil Architecture of the Odd Fellows Hall & U.B. Building block.

On December 13th, the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) recommended funding for a redevelopment proposal at the former Odd Fellows Hall & U.B. Building Block. The recommendation now goes to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation for review and final approval.  If you’ve been following the plight of this endangered historic building block–an important anchor in Huntington’s Courthouse Square Historic District–you’ll understand what an amazing victory this is for the block’s future preservation.

The $1.6 million in recommended funding fills a critical gap in the financing of the proposed $8 million redevelopment. The Development team, consisting of Anderson Partners, Huntington University (HU), and Pathfinder Services, presented their Regional Cities Initiative proposal at the RDA’s November 15th meeting. The finished project will include market-rate housing, artist studios, a gallery, and space for HU’s Center for Entrepreneurship.

Jonathan Anderson of Anderson Partners led the development effort, responding with Indiana Landmarks to the Huntington Redevelopment Commission’s 2014 Request for Proposals for the block. Since that time they, along with City officials, have worked to pull together the current proposal, which will help attract and retain talent in Huntington. And bonus–the buildings will be preserved!

The proposal includes 35 market rate housing units called the “UB Lofts.” There will be eleven 2-bedroom apartments with rent projected to be in the $900-1,100 range, fourteen 1-bedroom apartments with rent projected to be in the $700-800 range, and ten studio apartments with rent projected to be in the $400-500 range. Creative floor plans will integrate historical elements of the buildings. The housing units will be located in all four floors of the former U.B. Building and in the third floors of the former Odd Fellows Hall and Annex buildings.

Pathfinder Services President, John Niederman, presented their proposal to locate their Creative Abilities Art Center to the building block. There are currently 66 people in the program. There will be studio space for artists with and without disabilities and a gallery in which the artists can display and sell their work to the public.

Huntington University President, Dr. Sherilyn Emberton, presented their proposal to create a Center for Entrepreneurship within the building block. The University will move and expand its current offerings, including its Fast Forward, HU Ventures, Clear Elevation, and Clear Distribution programs. The Center will help incubate small businesses at the ready-to-launch phase.

Also speaking was Huntington Mayor, Brooks Fetters, who was there to pledge his support of the adaptive reuse of this “historic and iconic” building block. He stressed how this project will improve the quality of life for Huntington residents and that it helps achieve the vision set forth in the City’s Comprehensive Plan.  He pointed out that approximately 80% of jobs in the U.S. are created by small businesses yet our community has not invested in small business at an equal ratio in the past. This is an opportunity to remedy that and invest in a project that will spur small business growth and encourage talent to locate and remain in Huntington.

Huntington Alert applauds our local governmental bodies for recognizing the opportunity that this redevelopment proposal represents. The project could not have happened without local investment. $2 million is pledged from the City of Huntington Redevelopment Commission Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, $500,000 from Huntington County Economic Development Income Taxes (CEDIT), and $100,000 from Huntington County. In addition, $350,000 in local private funds are being invested. The RDA Chairman summed it up best when he said, “I don’t know anyone who does it better than Huntington…Huntington gets it.”

The current timeline is to commence construction in May 2017 with construction complete and a ribbon cutting ceremony to take place in August 2018.

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