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Posted on Fri. Feb. 14, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

New city study aims to build on downtown housing successes

Will also try to spur development of rivers, Centlivre apartments

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With several big-money residential projects already complete, underway or planned, the city is about to begin a study officials hope will attract even more housing to 487 downtown acres.

“We want to stay on top of the wave,” said Deputy Director of Housing and Neighborhood Services Heather Presley-Cowen said of the forthcoming study she hopes will build on previous surveys that indicated a demand for downtown housing that is now being realized.

In 2006, a $40,500 study by Zimmerman/Volk Associates of Clinton, N.J., found an “untapped market” for urban living in Fort Wayne and suggested as many as 500 households annually might prefer such a lifestyle. It took years, but several projects are now meeting that demand, including condominiums in the old Anthony Wayne Bank building, new apartments at Harrison Square, the $70 million Ash Brokerage/Hanning & Bean project set to begin this year and the planned redevelopment of the area to the west of Parkview Field. Two old industrial buildings, on Harrison and Superior streets, are also being converted by Indianapolis-based Real America Development.

The firm updated its findings in 2010, and the new study, to be conducted by a firm still to be determined, would reflect progress already made and attempt to build upon it by demonstrating a demand for more, or perhaps different, downtown housing.

For example, the study area will include the site of the mostly vacant 500-unit Centlivre Village apartment complex just north of downtown. The city has tried to redevelop the 50-year-old complex for years, without success. But its proximity to downtown, trails and other amenities give the property a lot of potential, Presley-Cowen said, especially if the study reveals a demand for larger units able to accommodate families.

The study will also incorporate the East Central and West Central areas, as well as the riverfronts and the so-called “north river” property north of the confluence that has also been targeted for redevelopment in the past. The housing study will complement a $500,000 study of potential riverfront development already underway, Presley-Cowen said.

According to the city's proposal, the study is intended to “support market-rate and affordable housing units and the identification of essential amenities needed to support existing and future housing.”

“We want to keep our plans fresh, so that when money becomes available (for development), we can move forward,” Presley-Cowen said.

Results of a similar study assessing demand for housing in a 17-square-mile area of southeast Fort Wayne could be ready by April, she added.

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