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Expansion of housing options downtown part of efforts to keep economic development on track

Rendering of Lofts at Headwaters Park mixed use project
Rendering of Lofts at Headwaters Park mixed use project(City of Fort Wayne)
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 6:34 PM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Communities that want to attract companies and good paying jobs know those employers need access to a strong workforce. One thing Fort Wayne officials are counting on to deliver that workforce here is boosting the inventory of desirable places to live, including plenty of housing options downtown.

Crystal Higgs, a hairstylist, moved in 2019 from Grabill to a 6th floor apartment in the Skyline Tower complex in the core of the city. She likes the view from her apartment windows and an active lifestyle downtown. Lots of people want a similar living experience and the market is listening.

This week, city council voted unanimously to introduce a resolution to rehabilitate the St. Joseph nursing dorm building on Van Buren Street into 41 market rate apartments. A public hearing and vote could come from council later this month. Several other residential complexes have been completed, are under construction or are in the pipeline, like the Lofts at Headwaters Park project near Club Soda that awaits groundbreaking.

15 years ago, within the boundaries of the Downtown Improvement District, virtually no housing units existed. Soon, there will be close to two thousand living units available in the district’s footprint.

Crystal Higgs is thrilled about what she can find close to her adopted home.

“I think a lot of it is just accessibility of restaurants and places to go, shopping, I mean, any type of food you want you’re going to find it down here,” Higgs said.

Michelle Miller, who lives on the 9th floor of the same complex, can relate.

“I’ve made amazing friends, we go to dinner, drinks and it’s just fun being able to walk places, I love it,” Miller said.

“The demand has continued downtown, I think some people ask us when is enough, enough, but when you look at the projects that continue to get built they continue to fill up. And we see that happening throughout the county, so there’s clearly a market in our community for new living,” said John Urbahns, who is president and CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc., which helps drive economic development in Allen County.

JUST THIS WEEK, CITY COUNCIL GAVE PRELIMINARY APPROVAL TO PLANNED RENOVATION OF THE OLD ST. JOSEPH NURSES DORM ON VAR BUREN STREET INTO 41 NEW MARKET RATE APARTMENTS.

15 YEARS AGO, WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF DOWNTOWN IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT, VIRTUALLY NO HOUSING UNITS EXISTED.

WITH SEVERAL NEW PROJECTS COMPLETED, UNDER CONSTRUCTION, OR IN THE PIPELINE, THERE WILL SOON BE AROUND A THOUSAND LIVING UNITS AVAILABLE IN THE DID.

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