Meet the developer: 10 questions with Brian Prince
- February Tue, 2017
“We believe in this project, and we are willing to invest $20 million-plus of our own money into this development.”
Meet the man behind efforts to transform vacant property in downtown Elkhart
Tell me about yourself
I’m Brian Prince, lead project developer for Flaherty & Collins Properties. My wife and I have an 8-month-old daughter named Ava and currently live north of Indianapolis in Noblesville, IN.
What are your ties to Elkhart?
My wife is Kristi Prince, daughter of Greg Lucchese. I have been spending a lot more time in Elkhart thanks to this project, and my wife gets to see more of her family. My wife’s family owns my two favorite restaurants in Elkhart: Lucchese’s and Bacon Hill Kitchen & Pub. My wife’s brothers opened Bacon Hill in 2015, and they have amazing burgers with bacon in the patties.
Tell me about this project
We’re building a $29 million mixed-use luxury apartment community in downtown Elkhart. It will be built on the former Elkhart Foundry site, located at 318 South Elkhart Ave. It will house approximately 200 urban flats and five specialty townhome units with an additional 7,000 square feet of retail space.
The apartment community will also have a yoga studio, yoga on the lawn, a heated pool, a resort level fitness center, outdoor grilling stations and seating areas with fire pits. Additional amenities will include a bark park, a pet wash, a rooftop amenity area, a demonstration kitchen in the amenity area with double ovens and full, high-end cooktops with ranges, and Wi-Fi throughout the building.
Is this what locals want?
I’ve heard from many people in the community that there was a lack of housing options in Elkhart that catered to the millennial and empty nester generations. My wife’s family is very, very large, and most of these comments came from her family and her friends who have good paying jobs, but have chosen to live in South Bend, Granger, Mishawaka, or Goshen because of a lack of housing options. Some of her family and friends live on the Michigan side of the border. When we have been in Elkhart and speaking at public meetings, the same demographic is sharing the same concerns: they want more housing options and they all believe that downtown Elkhart can be really cool if we can get more people downtown.
How do you know this is what Elkhart needs?
Flaherty & Collins did our own extensive market analysis, researching current market rents, occupancy, and area population. Then city staff and residents provided feedback at several public meetings hosted by the city.
We found that Elkhart was missing a housing option that offered the high-level amenities and walkability that you find in urban markets. Through our research, we found that Elkhart has a very high occupancy rate, with most properties around 97% occupied or higher. We also discovered that over 28,000 people commute into Elkhart County for work each day, but do not live in Elkhart County. This can be for a number of reasons, but a percentage of those individuals do not live in Elkhart because of the lack of housing options. We saw this as a great opportunity to fill a need, and to help Elkhart grow by bringing more of their millennials back and not losing them to other communities.
It will also bring new people to Elkhart. Our projects tend to see around 65-70% of the residents come from outside of the area versus people just moving from one apartment to another. This happens at almost every project we develop. We have seen this trend in Orland Park, IL at our project Ninety7Fifty on the Park. We have seen it at Oakley Station in Cincinnati.
What does this project mean for local businesses?
Having a better housing stock allows the city to compete against others for business. Employers have told us that they have a hard time attracting talent when the housing stock has not kept pace. They often tell us that their employees want to know where they will live, and what there is to do in the community. If there is an appealing housing option near shopping, restaurants, and entertainment, then that is an attractive feature when they are recruiting talent.
What went into the design for this apartment complex?
In terms of design, each project is planned with the resident in mind. None of our projects are cookie cutter, as each development we do is a collaboration and a public/private partnership. We want to help the city accomplish its goals.
We also attend conferences around the country that show us the latest trends in multifamily and what renters want. It also doesn’t hurt that we have a number of millennials that work for our company, including myself.
This is the first time you’ve designed a “Makers Room” for an apartment building. Why?
With this project, we believe we may have a higher concentration of empty nesters than we typically have in other developments. Empty nesters are used to space, and, their garages. With that in mind, we have incorporated concepts into the project that will allow our residents, who might be downsizing from a larger home with a lot of space, to feel at home and not restricted. We will be incorporating a new feature we have not done before: a “Makers Room.” This room will allow our residents to do arts and crafts, woodwork or paint, yet not be afraid to make a mess. Many people currently use their garage for this, so it is important to have this work area in our property. We will also have storage units within the building for residents to store those extra items they do not have room for after downsizing.
Why is Flaherty & Collins the right pick for this project?
Flaherty & Collins Properties is the right pick because we have the most experience with public private development. We also are the only group to be willing to invest their own money at this site. The site has been available since 2010, and no one else has stepped up to take on the challenge of the site. We believe in this project, and we are willing to invest $20 million-plus of our own money into this development.
Our team is well suited because of the depth of experience that we bring. Prior to working for F&C, I worked at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. My experience with tax codes and credits helped me identify that this former foundry site was a great candidate for the DINO tax credit, a program that provides state tax credits to help with revitalizing former industrial sites. As a result of our team’s hard work and efforts, the IEDC approved the largest DINO Tax credit award in the history of the program for this project at $5.8 million.
What are you looking forward to?
Besides breaking ground? Kristi and I are looking forward to spending more time in Elkhart, seeing the nieces and nephews, and being able to catch a show at the Lerner Theatre – I have toured the facility but haven’t been in town on the day of a show.