An Odd Juxtaposition this Week

Riverside Commons – Plymouth Ribbon Cutting in the Pilot News, Friday, May 24, 2024

On Thursday we had the Ribbon Cutting for Riverside Commons Apartments in Plymouth and LaPaz Commons Apartments in LaPaz. This project resulted from Marshall County Crossroads‘ Stellar Designation. Matthew Celmer spoke on behalf of the Crossroads committee. Gary Neidig spoke on behalf of One Marshall County, the new reiteration of Crossroads. Mayor Listenberger spoke on behalf of the City of Plymouth. Alan Rakowski, Director of Real Estate Acquisition, for IHCDA spoke as well. It was also nice to see Don Ecker there representing the Plymouth Common Council, Lynn Gorski, Clerk Treasurer, representing the Plymouth Clerks’ office and Ralph Booker representing the Plymouth Plan Commission. All of them praised the new development and the what it would do for the City of Plymouth. (Marty Oosterbaan was there as a former Crossroads’ leader. He was also responsible for a lot of help in pulling the Ribbon Cutting together.) Thanks also to Easterday Construction Co., Inc. Project Superintendent, Bob Cooper, and Office Manager, Julie Heise for their help throughout the project and at the Ribbon Cutting.

The juxtaposition occurred later that day when a letter began circulating around Plymouth, on Facebook, and in other venues, condemning the Mayor and others such as myself involved with the proposed GC Horizons project – a project very similar to Riverside Commons. That was followed by a negative Letter to the Editor in the Pilot News. It was odd, being praised for doing something good for the community at the Ribbon Cutting and then later the same day, being attacked on Facebook for wanting to do more of the same.

Serenity Place – Picture from Darren Demis

Riverside Commons and the proposed GC Horizons are both IHCDA RHTC (Rental Housing Tax Credit) projects. The only difference is that GC Horizons will include 8 PSH (Permanent Supportive Housing) units similar to those at Serenity Place – 8 of the 34 total units. The “GC” in GC Horizons stands for Garden Court. Garden Count has been a respected not-for-profit entity providing affordable housing to the community for decades. They were also denigrated for attempting to do more good in the community.

While I know it’s unwise to feed the trolls by attempting to rebut their falsehoods online, I thought it worthwhile to present some of the facts here:

  • Garden Court is a true not-for-profit (NFP). Their board is totally volunteers and they recruit board members from all of the communities that have Garden Court facilities in them. The board members receive no compensation for their participation. Maybe it’s not their official mission statement, but from my association with them, there mission is to provide clean, safe housing for underserved populations in Plymouth and the surrounding area. (They haven’t even invested in a website! More about them pops up from our website than anywhere else.)
  • Garden Court is the best landlord/property owner with which we have worked. Because they are a NFP, their bottom line is to cover expenses. They have no employees or shareholders to compensate. That lets them put all the money to work for the best facility possible.
  • Garden Court requires their management team to vet applicants and residents. They do no allow applicants that fail their strict criteria to become residents. Their facilities are well maintained and I have experienced a sense of pride and ownership in their residents.
  • Garden Court was invited to the IHDCA Housing Institute for several reasons: One being their past work in Plymouth with Serenity Place and another being IHCDA’s recognition of the need in Plymouth. This opportunity was designated for Plymouth, not for other Marshall County communities.
  • Serenity Place experienced some issues in the first six months of operation that resulted in police calls. Once an equilibrium was established and some of the trouble makers were removed, those police calls tapered off. There was a learning curve for both new residents and management. This has not been a continuing problem.
  • GC Horizons will receive tax credit funding through IHCDA, but it is not a tax exempt project. Sales tax is required on the construction. Property taxes will be assessed and collected on the property at some point.
  • GC Horizons will not draw its tenants from outside Marshall County. The list of deserving and qualified applicants in Plymouth and Marshall County will be the pool from which they draw. There is a long list…
  • GC Horizons would love to move some of the north side motel residents into their facilities! The ones that meet the application standards and are looking to improve their situation… It’s unfortunate that there are bad apples in the motels, but there are also good people deserving a chance at better living conditions and the hope of getting on their feet and changing their lot in life.
  • GC Horizons has no ability or desire to circumvent laws, restraining orders or other legal devices that protect schools from past offenders.
  • GC Horizons is not a Mayor Listenberger project. The community team that began this journey at the IHCDA institute was formed a couple of years ago. The former City Attorney was part of that team because the previous administration recognized the community need. Mayor Listenberger’s support is a continuation of that recognition of need.

There were other specious Facebook comments that were just mean spirited and unworthy of responses. Few of them suggested alternate solutions, though at least one’s solution advocated violence and destruction of property. The negativity is hard to shake off. That said, one thing stood out from the Riverside Commons Ribbon Cutting on Thursday… We had a two story townhouse unit open after the ribbon cutting for guests to tour. Everyone was complimentary. As I was walking out with a couple of guests, there were two women sitting and talking on a neighboring porch. One of the women asked if we liked the unit? She then asked if we would like to see one of the flats, since she lived in a flat. I smiled and thanked her, saying I was familiar since I was part of the construction team. She smiled broadly and proceeded to tell me how happy she was with her new apartment, how she had made new friends there and how there was a sense of community. She ended it saying thank you for making the apartments available to her. She is one of the reasons for doing this and her heartfelt, unsolicited gratitude helps as some of the negativity comes my way.

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