Need for more residential development in downtown Fort Wayne

FILE: Randall Lofts

 FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- “I wanted something with a lot of character,” said Beth Clark.  Clark is part of a millennial generation that prefers downtown living. 

“A lot of Detroit buildings, Chicago buildings have that exposed brick and that’s what I wanted when I moved back to Fort Wayne: loft-style living,” Clark said. “I wasn’t confident that I would find it. I got super lucky.”

Is demand for downtown residential living greater than what’s currently available?  The Fort Wayne Office of Housing & Neighborhood Services says ‘yes’.  “The downtown rental market is flooded right now in terms of having lots of applicants for fewer units than are available, ” said Heather Presley-Cowen, the office’s deputy director.

How many apartments, condos and townhouses can downtown reasonably expect to fill?  About 1,500 new residential units over the next five to seven years, according to a study commissioned by the city and released Tuesday.  “We know that valuable property begins with land costs. Today if you want to buy a parcel or a building in downtown it’s probably more affordable than it will ever be in the future,” Presley-Cowen said.

While the downtown residential study may attract investors, the cost of these projects in the current economy is often more than a developer can recoup in rentals or in sales.  That’s when city government is asked to step in with incentives like tax abatements to narrow the investment gap for downtown residential developers.

After developing nine downtown properties, Scott and Melissa Glaze know the challenges.  “It’s not for the faint of heart,” Melissa Glaze said.  “Look at it as an investment; that it’s going to take some time to recoup.”



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