Non-profit Housing Finance Corporation Achieves Critical First Step in proposed Marshall Lofts Project
The non-profit Harrison County Housing Finance Corporation (HCHFC) announced today that the first critical step, which needed to be accomplished in connection with the proposed Marshall Lofts Project, was successfully achieved last week. The Marshall Lofts Project envisions the conversion of the historic Marshall High School building, located on West Houston Street in the historic New Town district of Marshall, Texas, into low-and-moderate income apartments. The HCHFC’s application for a reservation of allocation for authority to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance the conversion of the historic building was approved by the Texas Bond Review Board in Austin on February 26, 2021.
The application was filed by former State Senator and former Harrison County Judge Richard Anderson who serves as general counsel for the HCHFC. The application was filed on behalf of the developer, STC Marshall Lofts, L.L.C., a Texas corporation. The application authorizes the issuance of some $20 million in tax-exempt bonds during calendar year 2021.
The bond proceeds, together with additional dollars generated by the sale of Federal and State historic tax credits and housing tax credits, will be used to develop up to 130 apartment units on the property. The financing package assembled by the developer, Mr. Jim Sari, will include these funds, as well as other funding from private investors. These funds will be used to construct the apartments as well as amenities on the ten-acre tract, which was formerly known as the old Marshall High School and, more recently, as the old Marshall Junior High School, prior to being sold by the Marshall Independent School District in 2018.
Notably, the bonds will not constitute an obligation of the City of Marshall, Harrison County, or the State of Texas, but will be payable solely from apartment rentals and associated income from the developer.
Judge Anderson stated, “We are very pleased to have assisted with this critical first phase needed for the proposed Marshall Lofts Project. It’s a general consensus that there’s a need for low- to moderate-income housing in our community and, if successful, the Marshall Lofts Project will help to address this need, in addition to repurposing an historic local building for a beneficial use in our community.”
HCHFC President Anne Yappen, a local realtor, shared: “In addition to assisting with these important housing needs, our Board of Directors felt that this project could also help to ensure that this ten-acre tract in the west end of the Marshall central business district does not fall into a blighted condition in the future.”
The other members of the Harrison County Housing Finance Corporation Board of Directors are Mr. John LaFoy, a Hallsville-area builder, Mr. Barry Lovely, a Marshall businessman, Dr. David Nelson, the owner of Texas State Optical, and Mr. Jack Redmon, former interim Marshall City Manager and long-time director of Public Services for the City of Marshall.
Judge Anderson explained that, in late October of 2020, County officials, including County Judge Chad Sims, City officials, including Mayor Terri Brown and City Manager Mark Rohr, as well as Tom McClurg of Marshall Housing Authority, and other community leaders met to consider the proposal for the Marshall Lofts. All were in fundamental agreement that this represented both a challenge and an opportunity to rehabilitate this property which had been dormant for more than two years. A consensus emerged that the project move forward with the Harrison County Housing Finance Corporation heading up the application process for the project.
Judge Anderson explained that it’s now up to the developer to pursue additional funding through the applicable tax credits and private financing, following HCHFC’s successful reservation of allocation for authority to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance the conversion.
Anderson said, “We’re familiar with this rather complex structure as we have utilized historic tax credits to create the Courthouse Endowment in 2009 to assist Harrison County, and have utilized housing tax credits to promote multi-family housing projects in Smith County in the past. Again, we’re glad to have been able to have done our part to afford the developer this opportunity and we wish great success for this project.”
Hilltop Securities of Dallas, Texas will serve as financial adviser of the Marshall Lofts Project. Mr. Tim Nelson, a principal with Hilltop, noted that Mr. Sari is in the process of completing the conversion of the historic Hotel Grim in Texarkana into apartments, with the opening of this project in Texarkana scheduled for the spring of this year. Robert Dransfield of Norton Rose Fulbright law firm will serve as bond counsel.
Background on the Harrison County Housing Finance Corporation
The Harrison County Housing Finance Corporation is a Texas corporation chartered by the State of Texas in 1979. It was formed in Judge Richard Anderson’s initial term as County Judge, and was designed to address the crisis in housing mortgages that existed at that time. The establishment of the Harrison County Housing Finance Corporation was the first county housing finance corporation in the State of Texas, using the state’s recently-enacted statute.
With present mortgage rates of less than 3.5%, it is difficult to imagine the crisis which existed in the 1980’s. However, during 1980, fixed rates for thirty-year mortgages had reached some 14.5%. As a result, some young families were simply not able to afford to purchase a home. Realizing this problem and working with a recently enacted statute, the HCHFC worked with local lenders, and sold tax-exempt mortgage revenue bonds for some $23.8 million in the public markets, and produced a mortgage rate of some 9.45%. These funds were then made available to local lenders to loan to families in the County in order to address this problem.
The program made a tremendous difference in affordability since the monthly payment for a $60,000 home in 1980 was the difference between a payment of $735 per month and $505 per month, a savings of some 30%. When compounded over a thirty-year period, this represented tens of thousands of dollars in mortgage payments saved on the $60,000 mortgage.
Through this public-private partnership, the HCHFC worked with local financial institutions to make the benefits of home ownership available to over 430 families in Harrison County, saving millions of dollars in interest over the thirty-year life of their loans for young home-owners.
The HCHFC was also instrumental in the construction of West End Park on West Houston Street in the historic New Town district of Marshall in 1995.
A proposal had been made to utilize this site for a solid waste collection site, as it had long-since been vacant following the location of Maverick Stadium to the new high school on Pinecrest Street. This property had devolved into a blighted 18-acre site, which had been the location of the old Stephen F. Austin School and football field. Judge Anderson proposed instead and structured a plan to convert this property into a public park to serve the community in an underserved area of Marshall. The structure for the plan to build the park was to bring local, county, state, and federal resources together to provide the funding and services needed to construct the park.
Long-serving MISD Superintendent Pat Smith-Gasperson, facilitated the approval of the donation by MISD of this 18-acre property to assist this HCHFC-driven project to transform the acreage into an urban park. The structure for the park plan included a grant obtained from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, contributions of labor and equipment from Harrison County, and federal assistance provided from the AmeriCorps program. AmeriCorps is a federal program which was established in 1993 to provide labor and resources to help address critical infrastructure and other needs in local communities in America, plus educational grant funding opportunities for the students and other citizens who serve in the AmeriCorps program to help strengthen these communities.
West End Park represented the first park constructed in the underserved west end community in many years. The park now consists of two basketball courts, a covered pavilion, a soccer field and children’s playground equipment. More recently, lights and a concession stand were added to the facility through the efforts of SWEPCO and Mr. Jack Redmon. The HCHFC continues to maintain this park for the benefit of the residents of the city’s west end. The HCHFC is also currently in the process of planning upgrades for West End Park.
With the participation in the Marshall Loft project, the HCHFC continues its mission to assist with making sanitary, safe, and affordable housing available for the benefit of the Harrison County community. #
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