Designate Auburn’s West Side as State Opportunity Zone

By Amy Schweitzer, Department of Building, Planning & Development

The City of Auburn has a big opportunity in front of us, and we need your help by Friday, March 23. One DeKalb County Census Tract (or area) is eligible to be designated an Opportunity Zone for the next 10 years. For Auburn, that Census Tract is the entire west side of our city. An Opportunity Zone provides incentives for private investment that allow for the reduction, deferment and/or elimination of capital gains taxes.

Governor Holcomb will select 155 Census Tracts (out of over 600) to be designated as Opportunity Zones. Anyone can nominate a Census Tract to be an Opportunity Zone, and this is where you come in! By March 23, we need you to nominate the City of Auburn’s Census Tract. The more nominations for Auburn, the better. This send a clear message that the Opportunity Zone designation will incentivize investment in Auburn.

This Friday, March 23, is the deadline to make nominations.
Nominate Auburn’s Census Tract at: http://in.gov/gov/2979.htm. You will be asked to enter your name and contact information and answer a series of questions. We have prepared some texts to help answer the questions. Feel free to use some or all of this text, or craft your own response.

 


CITY OF AUBURN
Proposed Census Tract#: 18033020500

Current and Potential Future Land Use within Census Tract:
The City of Auburn’s eligible Census Tract, 18033020500, is a large and important geographical component of the City of Auburn. This Census Tract encompasses many distinct areas of the Auburn community, including:

  • Downtown Auburn Business District
    Historic Downtown Auburn is on the National Register of Historic Places and includes the beautiful DeKalb County Courthouse. As the county seat, Downtown is the hub of government activity. The courthouse is surrounded by other government buildings, offices, banks, restaurants, shops and specialty boutiques. As the heart of Auburn, Downtown is the center of community activities.
  • State Road 8 Corridor
    Auburn’s main commercial corridor along State Road 8 leads from Interstate-69 to Downtown, acting as the primary gateway for Auburn. This corridor provides many basic consumer opportunities for Auburn’s residents and visitors. This commercial corridor possesses enormous opportunity for quality of place improvements.
  • Industrial Areas
    The eligible Census Tract includes much of Auburn’s older industrial areas as well as some newer ones. The majority of these areas have experienced investment over the years and contribute to the economic health of the community. These facilities are a large part of the community’s employment base and bring millions of dollars into the local economy. It is also critical to point out recent interest has been expressed in the redevelopment of the 10+ acre Auburn Foundry site that has been vacant for over a decade.
  • Essential Community Facilities
    The City of Auburn is fortunate to have high quality community facilities that contribute to the quality of life in Auburn. Many of those facilities lie within the Census Tract eligible for an Opportunity Zone designation, including the world-renowned Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, the YMCA, school, library, community foundation, parks and trails and learning center.
  • Residential Neighborhoods
    The City’s eligible Census Tract also includes many residential neighborhoods.  There is opportunity for residential growth on the north side in the City’s Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction, as well as opportunity for investment and revitalization in older neighborhoods.

The land use patterns in this Census Tract are stable and not expected to change much in the coming decade, with the exception of the 10+ acre vacant Auburn Foundry site currently under redevelopment. There are so many opportunities for growth and improvement within each aforementioned area. Improvements and investments in the City’s eligible Census Tract would have a tremendous impact on elevating the quality of life and the quality of place for Auburn and DeKalb County residents.

Describe any recent investments made in the census tract
Public and private investments have been made in most of the distinct aforementioned areas within the City of Auburn’s eligible Census Tract.

  • Downtown Auburn Business District
    The City of Auburn was awarded a Main Street Revitalization Grant from OCRA for the Sixth and Main Street Revitalization Project. The project includes storm sewer, curb, sidewalk, street surfacing, dumpster enclosures, decorative lights, furnishings and landscaping along three blocks. Many of overhead utilities will be relocated to an underground duct bank as part of the project. This project has generated a lot of excitement in Downtown. In addition to the public investment, the Downtown Auburn Business District has experienced a renewed interest and significant private investment over the last couple of years in the form of a large historical renovation, new outdoor plaza space, restaurants, retail buildings and second floor apartments.
  • State Road 8 Corridor
    Auburn’s commercial corridor has recently experienced investment in the form of a grocery store and a new hardware store. There have also been investments in modernizing/revamping some of the fast food chain restaurants along this corridor.
  • Industrial Areas
    The old and vacant foundry office building located within the industrial area of the eligible Census Tract was recently renovated to house a local technology firm.
  • Essential Community Facilities
    There has been substantial investment in community facilities. The YMCA has completed multiple expansions that were partially funded with Regional Cities funds. The school district invested millions in an urban elementary school complex, linking the school to the Eckhart Public Library campus. The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum converted an awkwardly shaped triangle of land into a high-quality multi-purpose educational space that pays homage to the City’s automobile heritage. An existing building was repurposed, resulting in a new (and highly demanded) DeKalb Early Learning Center.
  • Residential Areas
    There has been one large investment in the residential areas of the eligible Census Tract, and that has been Lily Pointe Senior Apartments. Twenty-six senior apartments were developed and have quickly filled up due to high demand for attached senior living.

In addition, the City takes great pride in providing quality and reliable water, sanitary sewer, electric as well as fiber optic phone, internet and TV service across the City. These utility services are the central nervous system of our community, and the City continues to invest in and improve these infrastructure systems and services.

Describe any anticipated investments that could be attracted by an opportunity zone designation.
The City of Auburn is eager to encourage the use of Opportunity Zone incentives to leverage additional investment in this eligible Census Tract. There is already momentum and positive energy in Auburn, and incentives to reduce capital gains taxes will add to that.

  • Downtown Auburn Business District
    There are several projects being discussed in Downtown Auburn, and Opportunity Zone incentives could “seal the deal” for many of these and encourage interest in other projects. Projects include substantial investment of a new corporate headquarters for a local business that currently leases space; renovation of a vacant building into a multi-purpose performing arts facility; renovation of an existing building to house a microbrewery; and creating a business incubator. The City of Auburn also received a FEMA grant to demolish an unusable building in the floodplain ultimately leaving a large open space well-suited for recreational use. The City of Auburn hopes to establish a Riverfront District to spur restaurant development in downtown in close proximity to Cedar Creek.
  • Commercial Corridor
    The State Road 8 commercial corridor is the primary gateway to Auburn. The corridor is full of opportunities for improvement, redevelopment and even new development. Restaurants on this end of town are among top sellers in the Midwest. Redevelopment and improvement of this corridor is a game-changer for City of Auburn and the Opportunity Zone incentive will make such investments more attractive.
  • Industrial Areas
    Opportunity Zone incentives have the potential to attract more technology-related businesses and industries. There is huge opportunity for a high-tech business park with plentiful office space in the vacant 10+ acres of industrial land within the eligible Census Tract. Developing this land is key to retaining and attracting more technology-based industry. With Opportunity Zone incentives, as well as the existing fiber optic system, the potential for this land and surrounding neighborhoods is endless.
  • Essential Community Facilities
    The City of Auburn is currently creating a Trails and Sidewalks Plan to address gaps in key pedestrian corridors and to prepare for trail connectivity at both the local and regional level. The City of Auburn is also in need of more high-quality early learning centers and daycares. Opportunity Zone incentives and updated City plans and documents make investment in Essential Community Facilities more attractive.
  • Residential Areas
    Both attached and detached dwellings for all ages are in high demand in Auburn. Existing apartment buildings in older neighborhoods that fall under the eligible Census Tract are in need of renovation. The urban nature of Auburn’s older neighborhoods attract younger generations and provide a significant amount of revitalization opportunity in order to make these neighborhoods attractive to all ages and incomes.

Other relevant information and additional reasons for recommending this Census Tract
As mentioned, Auburn’s eligible Census Tract is an important geographic and economic component of the City of Auburn containing many distinct areas. Each distinct area has opportunities for investment that directly impact quality of life. This Census Tract contains a huge diversity of uses and areas encouraging balanced investment—in commercial areas (both historic and modern), industrial areas, residential areas and in areas where Auburn and DeKalb County’s essential community facilities are located.

The City of Auburn has taken advantage of opportunities to incentivize investment in these areas: TIF Districts, OCRA grants and forthcoming Redevelopment District and Riverfront Development Ordinance. The City of Auburn is well-positioned to make use of the Opportunity Zone designation to incentivize investment that will result in private and public benefits not only for this Census Tract, but for the City of Auburn and DeKalb County as a whole.

DeKalb County is one of the 11 counties that make up the Fort Wayne Regional City Initiative. Auburn actively participates in regional collaboration. The communities within DeKalb County are intentional about partnering to maximize our resources and to transform Northeast Indiana into “America’s Hometown.”  Not only do we collaborate to bring economic development and prosperity, but we also work together to create attractive communities where people want to live and play.

There are also guidelines for “Contiguous Census Tracts” that meet certain thresholds and are contiguous to the eligible tract. Please be advised that our neighbors Garrett and Waterloo each have a contagious eligible Census Tract. These contiguous districts are not eligible unless Auburn’s Census Tract is designated. We strongly encourage you to include our neighbors as your #2 and #3 requests. Collaboration is key to the success of each community, the county and the northeast Indiana Region, as a whole. 

 


CITY OF GARRETT
Proposed Census Tract # 18033020602

Description of the current and potential future land use within census tract:
This Census Tract includes all of east Garrett, including Garrett’s Industrial Park. It also includes Auburn’s industrial areas that are south of Auburn Drive and west of CR 427/11 A including Scot Industries and Metal Technologies. The northern portion of the I-69 and County Road 11 A interchange are in this contiguous Census Tract. It includes the State Road 8 commercial corridor, west of Auburn into Garrett.

Describe any anticipated investments that could be attracted by an opportunity zone designation
There is a shovel ready industrial site that would be ideal for industrial development, as well as the remainder of the 8@69 Development.

 


TOWN OF WATERLOO
Proposed Census Tract #18033020200

Description of the current and potential future land use within census tract:
This tract includes most of the Town of Waterloo is an eligible contiguous tract adjacent to the only eligible tract in DeKalb County, at the west side of Auburn along I-69. The Census Tract encompasses Waterloo’s downtown, expanding industrial park and a recently annexed area prime for development at the I-69 and US6 interchange. These three zones are served by a TIF district. Despite the low incomes and property values in this Census Tract, town leaders are utilizing all the resources available to bring a promising new economy to this area.

Waterloo is recovering from a downturn after the recent recession. Main Street leaders are being proactive to encourage investment in historic retail buildings with rehabilitation and façade grants and have initiated a downtown revitalization program with Ball State urban planning graduate students.

Waterloo has a strong manufacturing base. Businesses in the Waterloo Industrial Park have been expanding in the past five years. For example, MetalX opened their headquarters in 2013 and Nucor Building Systems is undergoing its second expansion in two years. In this Census Tract, a proposed travel plaza and other potential developments at the west side of the interstate caused the need for utilities so the Town recently completed an annexation there and is extending sewer and water to make the anticipated growth possible.

The tract also includes the Waterloo Amtrak station, which was the second busiest passenger station in Indiana in 2017. Last year, more than 22,800 people rode the train from Waterloo, a population of only 2,200. The Town completed a major renovation with federal TIGER grant funds in 2016 to better serve Amtrak passengers and now operates the station daily. Town leaders are promoting a need for services and businesses to serve these consumers.

There are also schools, parks and residential housing in this Census Tract. Since 2014, the Town utilized IHCDA Blight Elimination Program funding to remove blighted “meth houses” in this tract and revitalized neighborhoods. The Town matched Safe Routes to Schools funding through INDOT for numerous sidewalk projects and has been pursuing grants to extend a part of the Indiana Visionary Trail through the Town.

Describe any recent investments made in the census tract
Both town and private investments are creating a sense of momentum in Waterloo. Last year, a $250,000 private contribution was matched by the Town to extend utilities to a recently annexed area by I-69. Casey’s General Store recently received approval for a $2.5 million investment to build a new store in this tract near Waterloo’s downtown.

A couple of the historic buildings downtown were recently purchased and one of the new owners has expressed interest in the Town’s façade grant program. Best Deal Auto opened in 2016 and Elsie Manufacturing is rehabilitating a downtown building for their upcoming relocation. Another small manufacturing start-up has applied for permits to build a new facility.

The Town has also made numerous investments in infrastructure in this Census Tract. In 2015, the industrial park intersection was improved with a federal transportation grant and several stormwater and wastewater projects have been completed to improve the Town collection system and enable expansion in the industrial park. Streetscape and beautification projects have been implemented. The Town is also working on community development and volunteer programs to regain a sense of pride and community spirit.

Describe any anticipated investments that could be attracted by an opportunity zone designation
Most notably, after the only grocery store closed, the Waterloo Redevelopment Commission purchased the dilapidated structure. This is a critical property to the future of Waterloo, because it is actually four buildings in the heart of main street. Several developers have expressed interest in making a substantial investment in rebuilding the block with space for retail and/or services on the ground level with several stories of much-needed affordable housing on the upper levels.  Historic tax credit programs were considered until the program changed. Now we are told the use of Opportunity Zone benefits could be the catalyst to incentivize their investment. This downtown development is considered transformative and could be the lynch pin that determines whether the community’s revitalization efforts are successful or the whether downtown continues in a state of decline.

Waterloo has an excellent northeast location with access to Amtrak, the Norfolk Southern railway, Interstate 69, US 6 and the Old Highway 27. Investments in the industrial park and interstate development area could be expected as well. Land is available for major industry and there is potential for developments like hotels or businesses along the US6 corridor.

Other relevant information and additional reasons for recommending this census tract
DeKalb County has only one eligible tract (near Auburn) with two eligible contiguous tracts, including this one in Waterloo. There is a high likelihood of successful use of the Opportunity Zone in both the eligible and contiguous tracts. Auburn was recently highlighted in Site Selection magazine in the top 100 “micropolitan” areas for facility investments. Waterloo is also gaining a reputation for making improvements and doing what it takes to attract and retain both our industries and our workforce.

Dekalb County is one of the 11 counties that make up the Fort Wayne Regional City Initiative and we actively participate in regional collaboration. The communities within DeKalb County are intentional about partnering to maximize our resources and to transform Northeast Indiana into an economic powerhouse. We have worked closely with Auburn, Garrett and other Dekalb communities on projects such as blight elimination, tax proposals, fiber optic expansion, enhancing educational and workforce development opportunities, connecting trails and we are beginning to look into collaborative tourism promotion. The cluster of manufacturing and steel-based industries in all our communities work together as well.

Waterloo is prepared to utilize the benefits of the Opportunity Zone designation and to generate tremendous investment in our area.