Expanding downtown housing options part of effort to keep economic development on track

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) – Communities that want to attract businesses and high-paying jobs know that those employers need access to a strong workforce. One thing Fort Wayne officials are counting on to provide this workforce here is to increase the inventory of desirable places to live, including plenty of downtown housing options.

Crystal Higgs, a hairdresser, moved in 2019 from Grabill to a 6th floor apartment in the Skyline Tower complex in the heart of the city. She loves the view from her apartment windows and an active downtown lifestyle. Many people want a similar life experience and the market is listening.

This week, the city council voted unanimously to introduce a resolution to rehabilitate the St. Joseph nursing dormitory on Van Buren Street into 41 apartments at market price. A public hearing and vote could come from the board later this month. Several other residential complexes are completed, under construction or in preparation, such as the Lofts at Headwaters Park project near Club Soda, which is awaiting the first shovelful of earth.

Fifteen years ago, within the boundaries of the Downtown Improvement District, virtually no housing existed. Soon, nearly two thousand housing units will be available within the neighborhood’s footprint.

Crystal Higgs is thrilled with what she can find near her adopted home.

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

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

“I’ve made some amazing friends, we go to dinner, drinks and it’s just fun to be able to walk places, I love that,” 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 build, they continue to fill. And we’re seeing that happening across the county, so there’s clearly a market in our community for new housing,” said John Urbahns, president and CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc., which is helping drive the Economic Development of Allen County.

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

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

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

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