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Last updated: Wed. Mar. 05, 2014 - 07:51 am EDT

City to buy eight blighted downtown homes for renovation

Expects to seek proposals from developers within 90 days

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Eight downtown homes may soon regain their former glory – a rebirth officials hope will stem blight and attract even more residents back to the central city.

The Fort Wayne Housing and Neighborhood Services Board Tuesday agreed to buy houses on West Jefferson Boulevard, Broadway and Wilt, Jackson, Fulton and West Berry streets for a total of about $402,000, to come from a federal grant. The city is expected to seek proposals from developers within 90 days, and renovation could begin this spring or summer, according to Deputy Director of Housing and Neighborhood Services Heather Presley-Cowen.

“Our goal was to find properties that have experienced 'market failure.' We want to create good, solid rental units that will contribute to downtown. This is strategic. We were looking for that one house that is bringing the block down,” she said.

The project is double the size of a similar project that built or restored four houses along West Washington Boulevard last year. That improved the main west-bound corridor leading out of downtown, but Presley said the intent this time is to beautify areas visitors often see when entering downtown. Three of the eight homes are on West Jefferson, a major east-bound corridor. All are in or near the historic West Central Neighborhood.

Although Presley said it's possible homes could be sold to residents, it's more likely they will remain rentals containing between one and four units each. Financial assistance will be available to developers chosen to participate.

Although most or all of the homes are vacant, many retain original woodwork, fireplaces and other fixtures.

In other business, Presley-Cowen said the state has approved $12 million in tax credits toward the renovation of the crime-plagued Eden Green Apartments at 2201 Reed St. The News-Sentinel reported last October that Cleveland-based Millennia Housing Management intended to demolish at least one building and erect 16 new units and a community center.

The renovated complex, in the heart of the city's Renaissance Pointe renewal area, will be known as the Villages at Hanna.

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