Well before a welcome announcement last week that a multimillion dollar mixed-use development is slated for Fort Wayne's southeast side, residents, business owners, community leaders and elected officials were working to find ways to improve the historically neglected area.
The Southeast Strategy, adopted by the city in January, is an update to a 2007 plan for development in the area. The culmination of about two years of planning and input, it calls for needed upgrades in housing, more emphasis on economic development and placemaking – strengthening connections among residents through planning, development and design.
“This strategy requires community support and private sector investment,” a 68-page report detailing recommendations for the southeast quadrant says.
Village Premier can check some of those boxes and potentially be a catalyst for other tangible moves toward development of housing and services sought by residents in the area.
“I kept saying, 'We want an apple and you keep trying to give me an orange,' ” City Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, who represents the area where Village Premier will be located, told The Journal Gazette after a Tuesday news conference. “Who can get market-rate housing and who can include retail, pocket parks, places to have walkable spaces around what currently exists so that it blends in with the neighborhood and is not a sore thumb sticking out? ... (The developer) came with the complete package.”
The developer is House Investments, a Carmel-based firm that builds, owns, manages and runs apartments. It will partner with Fort Wayne companies MKM Architecture and Michael Kinder & Sons on a 200-home project atMcKinnie Avenue and Plaza Drive.
Plans include 20,000 square feet of commercial space, and Matt Gadus of House Investments pledged to ensure the space will be “a vibrant, walkable, mixed-use, mixed-income community.”
That means apartments and for-sale housing as well as senior and income-based housing. Child care facilities and health clinics are also a priority, Gadus said.
It's similar to a project in Evansville, where House Investments plans a four-building development with 180 apartments and about 15,000 square feet of commercial space in an area targeted for revitalization. Apartments there would be of “workforce quality,” the Evansville Courier & Press reported, and be open to renters with incomes ranging from $28,000 to $57,000.
Specifics so far are few on the local project, though city leaders expect $50 million to be invested through public/private agreements “over the next several years in southeast Fort Wayne” after Village Premier is built.
“The city is still working on the details of the development agreement with House Investments, but what stood out during the selection process is that they have typically been long-term holders of their development properties and include their own property management division,” Angelica Robinson Pickens, a spokeswoman for the Community Development Department, wrote in an email.
Simply having plans in place for an area that typically sees fewer investment dollars than other portions of Fort Wayne is a positive development.
“What I've heard for 22 years from citizens is that we need all of those vital services and goods and opportunities so they don't have to travel out of the southeast quadrant,” at-large City Councilman Glynn Hines said. “The citizens are asking, 'When?' This is probably the biggest project outside of Southtown Center that will be happening in the near term, so it's good.”