Oakland Avenue Project
With the help of $2.5 million in state funding, evolution is coming to a six-acre property on the edge of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus.
It had been home to 327 student housing units, as the Carriage House and Essex House apartments near the juncture of Oakland Avenue and Thirteenth Street, on the southern end of Indiana Borough.
What happens in the future may be with the help of the proposed Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance or LERTA ordinance that will cover the borough and impact borough, Indiana Area School District and Indiana County taxes.
It definitely will utilize a still relatively new but little-known federal tax incentive program, putting most of the borough in a “qualified opportunity zone.”
On Friday March 4, state Sen. Joe Pittman and Rep. Jim Struzzi, both R-Indiana, announced what the Indiana County Development Corporation will do with a $2.5 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant awarded in December.
“As the regional demographics have declined, along with the recognition the student enrollment of (IUP) isn’t what it used to be, the (ICDC) is looking at ways to repurpose rental housing complexes near the IUP campus,” Pittman said.
“This is an opportunity to transform a property that lies in heart of our community into something that can be better utilized for the benefit of the greater population,” Struzzi said.
RACP is administered by the state Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects.
RACP projects must have a regional or multi-jurisdictional impact and generate substantial increases or maintain current levels of employment, tax revenues, or other measures of economic activity.
Speaking on behalf of the nonprofit ICDC’s board of directors, corporation President Joe Reschini said the money “will be a catalyst to leverage additional private sector dollars in revitalizing this strategically located property.”
Reschini said ICDC looked forward to working with the borough and Indiana County Board of Commissioners “in developing a successful project” and expressed his appreciation to “University Carriage House Associates for their continued cooperation over the next several months.”
Byron G. Stauffer Jr. executive director of ICDC as well as the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development said he hoped to negotiate an agreement in the next few weeks that should lead to an adaptive reuse of properties that could have a “higher and better use” amid the decline of IUP enrollment in recent years.
Or, as Pittman put it, “this effort will create a property that can be reused to help improve the economy of the community.”
Struzzi echoed Pittman’s support, saying he applauds ICDC “and their continuous efforts to serve as visionary leaders for Indiana County.”