$50M Investment Planned For Southeast Fort Wayne

By Maureen Mespell
By John W. Davis

August 10, 2011 Updated Oct 23, 2013 at 2:24 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – "You've got to start somewhere," said Community Builders Director of Planning David Block.

Block is referring to a possible housing project that could invest $50 million dollars into Southeast Fort Wayne with the hopes of serving as an economic catalyst.

Indiana's NewsCenter attended the Southeast Area Partnership meeting Wednesday night to meet with project developers, project supporters and project opponents.

The Community Builders, Inc. based out of Chicago, Illinois is behind the proposal.

Community Builders believes Southeast Fort Wayne is a great place for a mixed-income housing development project.

The site would be called Pontiac Square, which would be located near the corner of Pontiac Street and Anthony Boulevard.

Developers would renovation an Old brick Coca-Cola Bottling Plant and build from the ground up on nearby vacant lots.

After everything is renovated and constructed, Pontiac Square would have a total of 80 apartments and rental homes.

Developer David Block said rent would remain competitive with neighboring rental opportunities, anywhere between $400 to $900 dollars.

Block said the quality of the housing opportunities could also help break down the stigma that renters are not as good as home owners.

They believe in the current and future economy, fewer people will be able to afford to own homes, therefore high quality rentals would be a great option.

Developers believe Pontiac Square would serve as an economic catalyst in the Renaissance Pointe Neighborhood.

However, not everyone is on board.

"I would invest in the vacant homes that are around here. I'd rehab some of them, just to stabilize the neighborhood to keep the middle income from leaving this area," said Fort Wayne Resident & Project Opponent Leon Williams.

Williams said he is against the project because the $50 million dollars would not go directly to bringing jobs, restaurants, or a hospital to Southeast Fort Wayne.

"I think what we need is a collaborated effort between the housing initiative, retail initiative and commercial development. I think we need all of that," said 6th District Fort Wayne City Councilman Democrat Glynn Hines.

"The community planning development department is the one who enticed them (The Community Builders) to come to town. They should also be on that same level enticing the Applebee's of the world, the Pizza Hut's of the world," explained Hines.

"The retail stores, clothing stores, big box stores to look at the Southeast quadrant, particularly in that area," continued Hines.

Hines may be critical but he pegged himself as a partial supporter.

He liked the fact that empty lots would be used to build new housing opportunities.

He also appreciated the fact that Pontiac Square could fill a need since the McMillan Park Apartments will be torn down before September 2011.

He also said the Eden Green Apartments could be next to be torn down, creating another need for affordable yet high quality housing.

"You have to see it in real life in order to be convinced," added Block.

"I'm happy to take any of the skeptics we heard at this meeting today on a similar tour and hopeful they'll see some of what we see in the neighborhood here," pitched Block.

If developers received needed state tax credits, they construction and renovations could begin by September 2012.

Block said some tenants could move in by fall 2013.

Block calculated that the initial phase of the project would cost about $18 million dollars.

He said the other $32 million dollars would be invested over the next four to five years.

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