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Last updated: Sat. Mar. 01, 2014 - 06:43 am EDT

Millions in credits to revamp apartments

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FORT WAYNE — Fort Wayne has taken a huge leap forward in its efforts to transform the image of a troubled and crime-ridden housing site.

City officials were notified Thursday that a proposed $16.9 million project called the Villages of Hanna Townhouses was one of 15 Hoosier projects chosen to receive millions in federal rental-housing credit allocations from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, which administers and manages the credits.

Low-income tax credits give owners state and federal reductions based on a percentage of what they pay to rehabilitate the buildings and property.

The project will receive $12 million in tax credits in $1.2 million allotments over the next 10 years. The city has pledged $1 million more in federal housing dollars toward the venture.

Four separate villages will replace Eden Green’s 12-building complex, each with a unique look and commons area.

The villages will be built by Millennia Housing Management LTD of Cleveland which bought the Eden Green site near Reed, Greene and Wallace streets and just north of Renaissance Pointe.

The troubled apartment complex has had a history of violence and drug problems, but city officials are excited by Millennia’s promise of transformation.

Millennia buys, preserves and rehabilitates multifamily rental properties and has an affiliation with 112 sites in seven states.

“Eden Green was the No. 1 perception issue in the Renaissance Pointe neighborhood,” said Heather Presley-Cowen, deputy director of community development for the city of Fort Wayne. “The perceptions of crime were the Achilles’ heel of the project from the beginning.”

Millennia believed in the project’s potential and bought the Eden Green complex without the tax credits in place, which is a huge show of faith, she said.

The company plans to demolish one of the buildings and construct a 16-unit, townhouse-style complex in the Renaissance Pointe neighborhood on city-owned lots, Presley-Cowen said.

A community center with administrative offices and laundry facilities will be built in the center of the complex, she said.

All 192 units of the former Eden Green apartments will be renovated, including new windows, doors, roofing, heating and air-conditioning systems, parking lots, sidewalks and walkways and remodeled kitchens and bathrooms.

The facade of the buildings will be updated, and safety and security systems, including lighting, will be enhanced.

The entire project is expected to cost $16.9 million, Presley-Cowen said.

“It really speaks to the tenacity of what is happening in Renaissance Pointe,” she said.

The Renaissance Pointe area encompasses 36 blocks and 67 acres, including the proposed Villages of Hanna Townhouses.

The multimillion-dollar campus is anchored by the Fort Wayne Urban League, the Allen County Public Library’s Pontiac branch and the Hanna Creighton Head Start preschool and surrounded by 66 newly built, single-family homes.

“The plan at the Villages of Hanna is to blend the old with the new,” Presley-Cowen said. “It will be on par with the rest of the neighborhood and show the same spirit we’ve encountered all along.”

The city is seeking a new market study to determine what the next logical step will be, Presley-Cowen said.

“We’ve seen enough interest in the area to warrant a study,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming, and we want to do what is best for the neighborhood.”

The study should be completed by late spring, Presley-Cowen said.

“The rental tax credit program is an effective way to leverage private investment to provide affordable housing in communities throughout Indiana,” said Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, who chairs the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

“The projects approved demonstrate how the program can be used to rehab existing apartments, convert abandoned commercial structures to apartments or fund new construction,” Ellspermann said.

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