Former candy factory transformed into sustainable, affordable housing facility in Indianapolis

The former Homer J. Williamson Chocolate Factory on Indianapolis’ northeast side has been transformed into the “Overlook at the Fairgrounds” – a 4-story, 89,000-square-foot affordable and supportive housing facility that features city views from a rooftop terrace, LEED Silver design, and furnished space for public events.

According to Gary Hobbs, the lead developer on the project, all 50 housing units are occupied and many service providers are utilizing Overlook’s flexible on-site event spaces for job training, leadership development, arts and culture programming, and other services.

“We’re targeting training opportunities for those seeking to improve their quality of life by obtaining certifications and job-readiness skills,” Hobbs said. “But there’s also a strong desire here to develop talents outside the traditional jobs. We have spaces available for those who are passionate in the area of arts. We want to attract nonprofits and businesses to take advantage of our unique location adjacent to the State Fairgrounds for people to live and work, while also developing their talents.”

The on-site event spaces offer programming not just for residents of Overlook, but also for the community at large. Hobbs’ development group – Black and White Investments LCC – formed a nonprofit called Building and Impacting Communities (BIC) to bring consistency to how services are integrated at Overlook and potentially at similar sites in the future.

“Part of the challenge is that service providers – such as case managers, job training or healthcare groups – may only have a handful of clients in an area and don’t have access to private space to perform on-site services. That’s why we created the flexible rental spaces for them to be able to use on a temporary basis as needed,” Hobbs said. Approximately 20,000-square-feet of the building is dedicated to this purpose.

In September 2016, BIC closed on a $1.3 million loan from IFF to make improvements on the building. In 2017, IFF and BIC worked together to re-finance that loan under IFF’s innovative New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) Small Project Loan Fund.

“New Markets deals typically flow to larger projects because of the complexity and transaction costs associated with the tax credits,” said Dana Lieberman, IFF Senior Vice President for Capital Solutions. “But IFF wants to bring the benefits of NMTC financing – low rates, 7-year terms, and interest-only payments – to smaller community development projects too.”

IFF dedicated 20 percent of its NMTC allocation to the Small Project Loan Fund, which has so far provided more than $20 million in financing throughout the Midwest.

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