Confident in Greencastle, a rebounding economy and his own business savvy, Brazil developer Brad Emmert Monday night detailed plans for a 94-unit apartment project on the city's South Side.
Representing the Clay County-based Emmert Group LLC, he appeared before the City Plan Commission and earned a favorable recommendation for the rezoning of 7.66 acres along the south side of Veterans Memorial Highway, just west of the four-way stopsign.
The triangle-shaped area, located east of the proposed site of the new Carpenter Real Estate office (at the corner of Tennessee Street and Veterans Highway), would have seven apartment buildings and a management office as presently configured.
Emmert said he has been active in Greencastle projects since 2007, and owns the USDA building and the office housing the Department of Children Services on Ridgeland Road.
He called the development "about a $5 million project," noting that his firm would be paying $100,000 or more a year in taxes on the property as well.
Emmert has several units in Brazil with some 40 more under construction in Clay County.
Occupancy is 100 percent there, and "people are begging to get in" to the new units, he told the Plan Commission.
"I really believe the Greencastle market will be better than our Brazil market," he said, indicating the apartments are all "market rate units." In other words, he is not a low-income housing provider and accepts no federal subsidies for his rentals.
"We build them. We own them. We rent them," he said, characterizing the apartments as designed for young professionals, public school faculty, professors and even students.
The units typical carry a rental figure of $750-$800 a month.
The Plan Commission, acting on a motion by Bill Hamm and a recommendation from City Planner Shannon Norman, voted unanimously to rezone the property from Professional Business (PB) to Mixed Density Dwelling (XD).
The project preliminaries, however, are far from finished.
The rezoning request will next go before the Greencastle City Council for approval (two required readings). Since the site will have multiple structures, it will also require a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals, Norman said, adding that a final appearance before the city's Tech Review Committee is also probably necessary.
Emmert expects to take a year to build the entire apartment complex project, likely completing it in a single phase.
"The conservative in me would like to do it in two phases," he said, acknowledging however that economies of scale and bankers' conventional wisdom would appear to dictate otherwise.
Emmert expects Joe Spiker Excavating and Construction of Greencastle to handle a big part of the building project, and said other local contractors will have the chance to submit bids as subcontractors.
"We want it to be nice, nice, nice," Emmert told the Plan Commission. "We want to be good neighbors and have this be a nice neighborhood project."
One neighbor, Zach Miller, was in attendance at City Hall to voice some concern over increased traffic, the narrowness of Tennessee Street and lack of sidewalks.
City Planner Norman reminded the group that Emmert will be bound by the sidewalk requirements of the ordinance, which would mandate sidewalks along the north side of Tennessee Street over the entire length of his development.
She also reminded the commission that the only access to the property would always be off Tennessee Street because Veterans Highway is a limited-access road that does not allow any additional access from the highway than those originally designed.
Norman agreed, "An increase in traffic is going to be noticeable with 90-some units."
However, the unusual nature of a 7.5-acre piece of property within city limits being developed by one developer at this point in time makes rezoning to Mixed Density Dwelling (single-, two- and multi-family housing) the most logical use of the property, the commission agreed.
"It's a residential area," Hamm noted. "I can't see a Wendy's in there or a bank."
Joining Hamm in voting to send a favorable rezoning recommendation to the City Council were Mike Murphy, Tim Trigg, Eric Wolfe, Jack Murtagh, Donnie Watson and Mayor Sue Murray.
Commission members Kathy Ferrand, Mark Hammer and Matt Welker were absent.