The area targeted for development by RealtyMetrix, Chicago, is bounded by U.S. 31 on the south, Main Street on the west and Old U.S. 31 on the east. Graphic provided
The area targeted for development by RealtyMetrix, Chicago, is bounded by U.S. 31 on the south, Main Street on the west and Old U.S. 31 on the east. Graphic provided
Fulton County Commissioners on Sept. 7 gave their blessing to a proposed $81 million dollar mixed-use development on Rochester’s south end.

“This is one of the biggest things that’s come down the road for us,” Commissioner Steve Metzger said of the project, which would bring an estimated 660 apartment units and upwards of six retail/commercial spaces and four lots for hotels.

The project checks a lot of boxes for Chicago-based RealtyMetrix, the professional real estate development company that has expressed interest in turning nearly 85 acres of farmland into a neighborhood that blends affordable multifamily housing with retail and hospitality.

“We see a huge benefit that you already have a commercial corridor that’s developed,” said Andis Dimants, managing director and managing broker of RealtyMetrix.

The land is on the northeast side of U.S. 31 and Indiana 25. It is bounded by Main Street on the west, U.S. 31 on the south and Old U.S. 31. It starts at Rochester Crossing Drive, south of Walmart. It’s at an intersection that has existing commercial activity including: Walmart, Kroger, Speedway, Pilot Travel Center, Auto Zone, Super 8 Hotel, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Dunkin and Wings Etc., with a new Starbucks coffee shop in development.

“You have a very strong, thriving retail area,” Dimants said, adding it’s helpful to have those national brands to build upon and market the area.

Additionally, he pointed out the location is centrally located to major population centers such as Fort Wayne, South Bend, Elkhart, Lafayette, Indianapolis and Chicago.

RealtyMetrix also finds the selected area is further enhanced given its proximity to Lake Manitou, for which the project draws its name and has been preliminarily dubbed Manitou Meadows. The name, along with the general layout of the project, is subject to change.

The project has the opportunity to meet the underserviced needs of affordable housing for Fulton County and Indiana.

According to an Indiana University Kokomo study, 42.7 percent of renting households in Fulton County are considered rent overburdened, meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their gross income toward rent. Fulton County has 15.7 percent more overburdened renters than the state as a whole.

The multifamily component of the project has the opportunity to provide 660 units to the county’s affordable housing stock. The units are to be developed in five phases, with 132 units per phase. The phased development will depend upon the final funding structure.

Significant decisions need to be finalized regarding affordable rent rates, tenant percentage of income qualifications and the percentage of units that would be affordable versus market rate.

RealtyMetrix finds that the development of multifamily activity supports additional national fast-food retailers. Four lots have been strategically located within the development to service existing activity as well as new demand that would be created by the phased multifamily development.

With the development of multifamily housing and additional national fast-food retailers, combined with marketing efforts, the demand for hospitality service in the county is expected to increase. Four hospitality lots are proposed within the mixed-use development.

Two commercial lots also may be offered within the development site for a daycare facility, a YMCA, or community building.

RealtyMetrix proposes to market the entire mixed-use development.

“For us, it is really crucial to have all three components because if you take one component away, it kind of becomes a two-legged stool for us to go out and market,” Dimants said.

The approach will include a website that will explain the development’s approach, features and benefits. The marketing is to include a consistent look and feel to attract targeted economic activity.

RealtyMetrix has identified multiple funding sources for the project and predicts half of the total project cost can be secured through state or federal grants. A number of potential lenders that have expressed interest in the project also have been identified.

A 60-month development cycle is anticipated; however, infrastructure development, estimated to cost roughly $10 million needs to come first. The county is hoping the city will split a $5 million contribution toward the effort that would then be used as matching funds for state dollars.

Fulton Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Terry Lee noted the project has not yet been presented to city officials for consideration. A special meeting of the Rochester City Council could be scheduled for that purpose.

“I’m excited about it.” Commissioner President Bryan Lewis said of the project. “I think it’s something that we need.”

He added it couldn’t come at a better time due to the county having several funding options available, including funds provided through the American Rescue Plan Act and Regional Economic Acceleration Development Initiative.

“This is the opportunity to leverage that ARP money that we were talking about and turn it into bigger bucks,” County Councilman Randy Sutton said. “This is what we’ve been talking about doing. It falls right in the scope. … If we can partner with the city, great. If they don’t want to partner with it, I still think it’s something that we need to pursue.”

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