Plan Commission hears sides on $8 million housing, entrepreneur proposal

Brightpoint had hoped to renovate old Taylor University dorms.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A new apartment complex, which would also provide business services for tenants, could be developed soon at the old Taylor University dorm rooms along West Rudisill Boulevard. Leaders behind the project believe they can land the money needed, as long as the land is zoned for commercial use.

Brightpoint, formerly known as CANI, is behind the project. The organization’s website says, “The development will include 48-units of affordable rental housing targeting small business owners, entrepreneurs, artists, and artisans.” The entrepreneurial housing development would offer one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. Business amenities provided would include conference space, meeting rooms, private offices, a copy/mail room, built-in workspace in each apartment, and an equipment library to house various tools of production.

The project calls for rehabilitating three existing buildings and building two new ones. The development is called, Enterprise Pointe.

Brightpoint leaders estimate the project will cost $7,973,112. Funding will come from three sources, with $685,000 coming through a conventional loan, $156,112 from developer equity, and the remaining $7,131,600 coming through private equity from sale of tax credits. Brightpoint is expected to learn later this summer if it has been awarded the tax credit or not.

Legal representation for the organization said Monday night at the Fort Wayne Plan Commission that it is more likely to get the tax credits if the land is rezoned for commercial usage. The old dorms are currently zoned as a residential area.

“By way of a C-2 zoning only works to make this development a success,” said Tom Niezer, a lawyer with Barrett McNagny, who represents Brightpoint.

After Niezer explained the project in detail to the Plan Commission, people for and against the project were allowed to comment. A dozen people spoke in favor of it, while more than 20 spoke against it.

“We had Lutheran Hospital leave, and then the grocery store, then other businesses followed. We’re starting to recoup some of what we loss,” said Fred Lanahan, who supports the project but has concerns about the land getting rezoned for commercial use. “The key factor is making something out of a vacant lot. This offers some positive things for the area.”

Many people who oppose the project fear what it could do long-term to the value of their property and what could happen if Brightpoint’s project fails. Nearby neighborhood associations also had legal representation speaking on their behalf at the meeting. One counsel said the land could just be granted a variance to allow commercial use.

“We have too many vague answers to very pertinent questions,” Susan Edwards said to the commission. “Nothing has been nailed down on paper for us.”

Kevin Knuth also spoke against the land getting rezoned. “I’ve seen this presentation three times in the last three weeks,” he said. “Every time it keeps on changing. I understand there’s a pot of money out there Brightpoint is trying to get and I applaud them for going after it. I think the problem is it is just so fast.”

Lauren Zuber supported the project. “Enterprise Pointe by Brightpoint will not only improve my neighborhood, but Fort Wayne as a whole,” she said. “The 46807 zip code is already home to many artists, small business owners, and other people who are starting to build their lives here because of the affordable homes and welcoming community.”

Niezer said there are measures in place to keep the project from failing. Ambassador currently owns the land, and would donate it to Brightpoint after it’s secured all the funding. If Brightpoint can’t meet schedule requirements, or runs into other issues, Ambassador can get the land back.

Click here for FAQs regarding the project.

Tenants would go through credit and background checks. Their rent, which would begin in the $300 to $675 range, would cover day-to-day operations. Tenants would work with Brightpoint staff to create and implement a business development plan and make meaningful progress annually toward starting a business, if the tenant doesn’t already have one.

Brightpoint will learn on August 27 if it landed the tax credits or not. The plan is currently to begin construction on Enterprise Pointe in the spring of 2016 and finish the work during the summer of 2017.

The plan commission will likely make a decision on rezoning the land or not on Monday night at 5 o’clock at Citizens Square.

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