White River Lofts Used For Tax Evasion?

Muncie Selling Off Prime Real Estate to Millionaires

I agree with Andrew Dale in his assessment published in the local newspaper when claiming that Mayor Dan Ridenour has been less than forthcoming with his real estate dealings, but I’d go much further.

Have you ever heard the expression, “It takes money to make money?”

Bear with me as the White River Lofts project in Muncie first requires scalpel work on the existing propaganda shoved down your throats by all the “media outlets” in Muncie, Indiana, and Indianapolis TV stations who broadcast pro-Chamber pieces in mass quantity aimed to convince Hoosiers that all economic development projects bring prosperity to their community.

The multiple ribbon-cutting ceremonies for this project first advocated by Next Muncie should have been a red flag for all of us. Additional red flags should have been raised when our former corrupt Mayor Dennis Tyler began buying the properties for a $42 million mixed-use project to spruce up Downtown Muncie. I believe everybody in Muncie was initially made to think that taxpayers were funding this project and would be long-term owners adding to our tax base.

This beautiful piece of marketing was written by Mike Rhodes from the Muncie Journal/WLBC/Chamber/City website:

The project is the first in the White River Canal District. The White River Canal District is the result of collaborative efforts and strategic partnerships including the City of Muncie, Muncie Downtown Development, Next Muncie, Canal District Holdings, Inc., and Gillette General Contract. The “Central City” has been chosen as the focus of Next Muncie as both the hub of activity and catalyst for meaningful city transformation. The Central City area includes Muncie’s highest concentration of place, economic, cultural and educational assets, including thriving institutions and key areas ripe with opportunity.

That is some excellent propaganda by Mike. If “city transformation” means selling off valuable pieces of real estate to millionaires so they can dodge capital gains taxes, then, “Rah, rah!”

Based on property records, Delaware Advancement Corporation (DAC) obtained the property from the Muncie Redevelopment Commission, only to sell it to Canal District Holdings, LLC (see below) in December 2019. Here is the screenshot from Beacon:

As you can see, Muncie Redevelopment Commission deeded it to DAC, who then sold it to Canal District Holdings, LLC. I’ve asked the Mayor and principles of DAC to who they sold the property. I’ve also asked the principles of Canal District Holdings twice or WS Property Group out of Bloomington, Indiana. So again, why is Next Muncie handing over property management duties to a Bloomington outfit that used a Bloomington outfit to build a website for the project?

“We would like to thank the Mayor and Next Muncie in their continued confidence in WS Property Group and are excited to bring this project in the White River Canal District,” said Eric Stolberg, President/CEO, WS Property Group.

I’ve also asked Jud Fisher who are the principles of Canal District Holdings. He was supposed to get me the name but never did.

“Opportunity Zones”

As I said above, the citizens of Muncie were being sold on the idea that we were developing property on Washington Street as a development project to benefit City residents. At that time, it was Mayor Dennis Tyler and this new entity called Next Muncie, which is another front organization for Jud Fisher to manipulate his will over the City of Muncie with help from Jeff Bird, CEO at IU Health/BMH Hospital, and Geoffrey Mearns, President of Ball State University.

Most of us thought Dennis Tyler was lying about the project because that was his modus operandi and why he was indicted by the FBI.

However, once the land was assembled, a recently formed company (05/2019). That ownership change meant the might qualify for capital gains tax breaks via a federal program called “Opportunity Zones,” or OZs.

This program helps investors save millions on their capital gains tax liability. It was quietly tucked into the 2017 Tax Cuts, and Jobs Act, often referred to as the “Trump Tax Cuts to Billionaires.”

TJCA slashed tax rates on corporations and wealthy individuals; the GOP at the time controlled the presidency, House, and Senate. TCJA passed without a single Democratic vote and was never the subject of a public hearing. The storyline went by offering tax breaks on capital gains earnings. The new program would encourage wealthy investors to put their money into historically disenfranchised neighborhoods, reducing poverty and helping small businesses.

I’m not sure that I’d classify Downtown Muncie or the Olde West End as a “disenfranchised neighborhood.” Also, why would the City sell such valuable waterfront property? As Jud Fisher says throughout Next Muncie’s website, “The White River is the greatest asset we have in Muncie.”

So, why offer it up for sale to an outside entity?

Also, the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce has jumped in on this propaganda blitz, touting OZ’s as a vehicle to “attract investment.”

But why would we need to attract an investor to prime Downtown riverfront property? The Muncie Journal (Jud Fisher’s, the Chamber of Commerce, WLBC, and City of Muncie’s propaganda sheet) wrote a piece that was placed on the White River Lofts website for potential renters to see:

“White River Lofts will bring vigor to our downtown and offer housing in a convenient and beautiful location. Muncie is lucky to have four “opportunity zones” which help attract investors to our great City. These zones have helped bring in a large amount of investment, and will continue to give our City a competitive advantage. I appreciate everyone’s effort during this project, and look forward to the finished product.” —Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour

The White River Canal District is the result of collaborative efforts and strategic partnerships led by the community vision group, Next Muncie. The “Central City” has been chosen as the focus of Next Muncie as both the hub of activity and catalyst for meaningful city transformation. The Central City area includes Muncie’s highest concentration of place, economic, cultural and educational assets, including thriving institutions and key areas ripe with opportunity.

I can think of a few areas in Muncie that might require investor enticement, but Washington Street along the river bend across from Tuhey Park is NOT one of them. Also, how does this property enhance the locally impoverished? Finally, the price for a luxury apartment at White River Lofts is one bed one bath, two beds two baths – from $890-$1,600/mo, according to the marketing brochure.

Does that sound like low-income housing to you? And, if we sold it to an outside investor trying to escape capital gains tax, how does that raise the poverty level in Muncie?

Here’s an idea, since the Ball family was instrumental in constructing systemic racism in Muncie, why not donate the property through DAC to the new Black Chamber of Commerce or to a trust fund set up to help the African American community? Wouldn’t that be an excellent way for Jud Fisher to atone for his ancestor’s sins? I mean, why sneak behind the scenes giving prime real estate property to a rich person evading taxes?

Who are the owners of the White River Lofts?

This is the ultimate question and the missing piece of the puzzle at the White River Lofts in Muncie, Indiana. It’s a question I’ve asked of all the principles. Also, every single journalist should have asked reporting on this project in Muncie. It’s imperative that we entice investors for properties that require incentives but not give away prime parcels to people outside of Muncie since that only extracts wealth from Muncie.

Going to be difficult for the community to rally behind a Bloomington-based millionaire who will be taking and spending his money in another district; possibly another state. Why not keep the ownership local so we can all benefit from the success of the project? Do we always have to be manipulated by Jud Fisher and Next Muncie? Are the existing media entities in Muncie just play along?

Probably the most concerning questions are what other properties are we rushing along for millionaires who want to avoid capital gains taxes? Are we selling prime real estate to friends of Jud Fisher, Jeff Bird, or Geoffrey Mearns? Is Munsonians being played by the wealthy oligarchs and our elected officials? Why are elected officials siding with the oligarchy and not advocating for the people, and why is the free press not doing its job? We have enough public relations firms; the people want a press with backbone to ask the tough questions.

I’ll be updating this article once we get answers, but due to the people involved from Bloomington, I already have a good idea who is getting these incredible tax breaks and piece of property.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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