Soft soil delays start of workforce housing project

The $5.8 million workforce housing development is planned for 419 N. Wasington St. in Huntingburg.


HUNTINGBURG — Soft soil at the former Wagon Works site has caused a delay in the construction start of a 56-unit workforce housing development on the site, located at 419 N. Washington St.

Project developer Paragus Group must now redesign the $5.8 million project to make changes to the foundation, Paragus co-owner Gary Ritz said Wednesday.

“We had originally expected to be able to break ground by the end of this year. However we ran into some poor soil bearing conditions at the site that has caused us to do some redesign work,” he said. “That has put us back by probably 90 to 120 days.”

While the problem is major and must be addressed, “looking at the building from the street, no one would notice any difference,” he said. “But it is a redesign that is absolutely required to maintain the structural integrity of the buildings, given the very poor soil conditions that we absolutely did not expect.”

The planned development is for 28 studio, 24 one-bedroom and four two-bedroom apartments in three housing units. There will be an additional building on the site that will have a community room. The site will have bike racks, a fenced dog-walking area, a picnic area, a parking space for each apartment and on-site management. Each apartment will have curtains or blinds; a porch, patio or balcony; a garbage disposal; dishwasher; and hookups for cable and for a washer and dryer.

Paragus was hoping to start working on the project at the end of this year. But when company officials received the soil report in early October, it stated that the soil bearing capacity was poor.

“The experts tell us that using a typical foundation 2 1/2 feet deep, the soil just does not have the bearing capacity to hold up the buildings,” Ritz explained. “What’s so strange about that, is the buildings that were on the site were big brick buildings that stood for 80 or 90 years, and there was never a problem. But today, with the technology we have now, the soil experts are telling us that we need to redesign the buildings to address the existing soil conditions.”

Ritz met with the soil analysts at the Huntingburg site to discuss the findings and to make sure they fully understood the problem. Now, the company is looking at options to address the problem and how much those options will cost. “The report said our foundation would have to be between 7 feet deep and 14 1/2 feet deep,” Ritz said. “That’s just one way to solve the problem.”

The cost of the project will increase some, but by how much is not yet known. The changes will not affect the tax credits the project is receiving from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Ritz confirmed.

“As the costs increase to address this poor bearing capacity of the soil, then we have to find a way to pay for those costs. So our financing model will change,” he said. “But it does not jeopardize the approval of the tax credits that we received from the state.”

The project has all the state approvals and permits needed to start.

“Just about everything else is in place for us to be able to start once we get this issue addressed,” Ritz said. “It is a process and it’s not easy. But it is still in the works.”

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