Ready to be redeveloped

The former Nelson Chevrolet lot that will be redeveloped and a new 35-unit senior apartment complex built in its place.

LAGRANGE — Construction on a new 35-unit senior housing complex in LaGrange is expected to start next year now that a state agency has approved an annual tax credit for the Fort Wayne developer behind the project.

Keller Development learned Thursday its application for a 10-year $660,000 tax credit was officially approved Thursday by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

The complex, called Claire Gardens, is named in honor of a member of the Keller family. Keller’s representatives have been working with town officials for several years trying to put a deal together to build this new complex. The state tax credit was the last major hurdle the project needed to clear before development and construction could start.

Keller announced almost three years ago it hoped to build the new apartment complex on the site of former the Fort Nelson Chevrolet dealership on LaGrange’s south side. That property sat largely unused for the last several years.

“This is huge for the town of LaGrange,” said Mark Eagleson, the LaGrange town manager.

When finished, the new complex will provide 35 new two-bedroom apartments for people aged 55 and up. The Fort Wayne firm is a developer and general contractor specializing in affordable and market rate communities.

The cost to develop and build the new LaGrange complex is expected to exceed $7 million.

Eagleson said like the rest of the LaGrange County, LaGrange suffers a housing shortage, and this project not only will provide need apartments for seniors but could help free up some existing housing and make that available to young families when seniors opt to downsize and move into the apartments.

“This is a real win,” he added.

Danielle Biberstine, a senior development specialist for Keller, said the tax credit was a crucial part of the project’s financial package. Biberstine said with the tax credit now approved, her company will move forward with development. Construction is likely to start in the fall of next year.

The complex, called Claire Gardens, is named in honor of a member of the Keller family. Keller’s representatives have been working with town officials for three years trying to put a deal together to build this new complex. The state tax credit was the last major hurdle the project needed to clear before development and construction could start.

Last year, confident the project would be awarded the state tax credit, Keller Development went ahead and purchased the LaGrange property.

Biberstine said she attended a meeting in Shipshewana where local leaders were addressing the area’s housing shortage. Biberstine said she started looking at local sites and focused in on the property where the former car dealer was located.

Keller Development has built and operated similar developments in Indiana. Once Keller Development completes the construction of the new complex, a Keller property management company will step in and manage the new complex.

“We have an in-house management company. It’s really a sister company to Keller Development,” she explained. “We develop, build, manage and own.”

Keller is a family-operated company located in Fort Wayne now in its third generation of ownership by the Keller family.

In addition to bringing new housing to LaGrange, the project is expected to help jumpstart a portion of LaGrange’s economy. Eagleson said he isn’t at liberty to provide details, but suggested several businesses have expressed an interest in bringing new enterprises to LaGrange and the south side of town because of the proposed housing project.

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