Warsaw leaders see Gatke redevelopment plan as a transformative move

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Shelby Bowen’s last name. News Now Warsaw regrets the error.
By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — Warsaw officials expressed elation on Monday about plans to transform one of the few longtime blighted industrial properties — that Gatke property — into a multi-use development that will include 75 apartments.

The city took the first major step Monday to secure plans for an $18.3 million mixed-use housing project at the old Gatke site on McKinley Street.

The dilapidated property that includes a rusting steel shell of a large warehouse and numerous smaller brick buildings near the railroad tracks has been an eyesore for decades. 

Rebar Development has proposed renovating part of the existing warehouse into a mixed-use building that would include commercial and office space. Further to the south will be a four-story apartment building with 75 units intended for “workforce housing” — a term often used for market rate.

The announcement was made Monday afternoon at the city redevelopment meeting.

Rebar President Shelby Bowen said financial details could be sewed up by July and the construction is expected to begin by late summer.

He said he hopes the project will be complete by March 2025.

Rebar will invest more than $11 million into the project with the city and the state covering the remaining portion, officials announced. The state will provide $4 million in tax credits while the city will provide $3.3 million.

While the city has successfully pursued three apartment developments aimed at serving low-income families, rental rates will be market value. Bowen said monthly rental rates will be between $1,000 to $1,200 for a one-bedroom and upward of $1,500 for two-bedroom units.

He said the company has enjoyed great success with similar projects in Lafayette, Plainfield and Noblesville.

“There’s always the risk that we don’t think it’s as great of a project as when we first set out, but we haven’t had that issue yet. I think we have a very compelling place where people want to live. We’ve seen all our projects fill up very quickly because they’re unique, they’re high quality, they’re  in good locations and the rent is reasonable for the area.” Bowen said.

City officials sounded ecstatic on Monday.

“It’s happening,” said Jeremy Skinner, the city’s community economic development director. “It’s a very long time coming. Since I’ve been here since 2004, it’s been, ‘What are we doing with Gatke?’ ”

The move marks another effort to provide more housing in the city — a top priority for Mayor Joe Thallemer in recent years.

“We’ve been entertaining what to do with this property since (councilman) Jeff (Grose) and I started on council 23 years ago,”  said Thallemer who noted that he fully supports the plan.

City Councilman Michael Klondaris, who sits on the redevelopment commission described the plan as “fantastic” and likes the financial arrangement.

“It’s important that the city has some skin in the game too. He’s putting in his money, obviously believing in the project and we have to believe in it too,” Klondaris said.

Thallemer also addressed the finances.

“The costs are such that you can’t build it and create market-rate rents that are useable. You’ve got to have investment from the city and the state and that’s what we’re asking here,” Thallemer said.

The proposal would also lend itself toward linking bike trails between Warsaw and Winona Lake. The connection will come in the form of a raised walkway across Winona Avenue where it connects with McKinley Street.

The development will be highlighted with a public plaza in front of the mixed-use building that will be partially covered and intended to serve bicyclists passing between the two communities.

Thallemer credited Kosciusko Economic Development Corp., for helping secure tax credits from the state.

KEDCo CEO Alan Tio said the overall project has involved plenty of work and more will be needed to get the project done.

But in the end, Tio said, the proposed development will be the type of transformative development that will be a highlight for the city — the kind people talk about.

A car passes along McKinley Street in front of the old Gatke property in Warsaw. The city announced plans to rehabilitate the blighted property on Monday. News Now Warsaw photo by Dan Spalding.