A look at life in the heart of the city
You may or may not know that Midtowne Crossing Condominiums have been quietly successful for a quarter of a century as 104 downtown residences that are quickly snapped up whenever they go on the market, either as condos for sale or as rentals made available by their investor owners.
But Midtowne Crossing was designed to blend in, with its homes inside four historic buildings and two not-shouting-they’re-new fill-ins along Calhoun Street between Wayne Street and Jefferson Boulevard.
AWB Luxury Condos towers, literally, 15 stories over the east side of downtown, on the edge of the arts district, overlooking the Courthouse and Freimann Square, and its condos began to be snapped up as soon as the project was announced in 2011. All of them are very nice, and some genuinely qualify as luxury condos because the owners talked the developers into making them bigger and then built them out spectacularly. The 1961 building is Modern Style and was designed by Robert Lee Hall & Associates. Coming up is another big residential project that includes 13 to 17 more condos along with townhouses and apartments: Bill Bean’s Skyline Terrace, a 15-story residential tower at Wayne and Webster streets overlooking the Allen County Public Library, Parkview Field and the new Ash Brokerage world headquarters to be built next door at Harrison and Wayne streets.
A worm, if worm it was, has turned, and condo living downtown has arrived in style in Fort Wayne, nicely in step with additional, new rental options and continued availability of single-family homes in the historic neighborhoods that surround downtown.
The moment when the market interest for condo living downtown could no longer be ignored or dismissed came right after the September 2011 press conference at which Mayor Tom Henry and developers RCI Development LLC announced the AWB Luxury Condos project.
“We had people who wanted to pick their condo on Day One,” said Breck Johnson, sales associate for BND Commercial Real Estate Solutions. “Emails came in. Phone calls were pouring in. But at that time, there was a process to this project because we had to get the building cleared out. We started with the demos and had to get the shell and get the condos (built) out. We had to tell them ‘You can pick your unit and everything you want in it and how you want it finished, but it will be a little bit of time until we can get it done.
“But it did not deter anyone.”
AWB Luxury Condos appears to have multiple selling points powering it right now. First is a market hunger for downtown condo living.
“Probably, it was really just that I wanted a lifestyle change,” said Leonard Helfrich, who lives there now and was one of those first people to state their desire for one of the condos. And he is one of the people who convinced the developers to change their plans. He and another owner ended up splitting one side of a floor into two condos where the developer had planned three.
The extra space is not grandiose, but it gives him room for a dining table that will comfortably seat 12, which is important to him. And there’s an extra bedroom, a second bathroom, an office and a climate-controlled wine storage roomette.
Helfrich, who is mostly retired now but has a busy volunteer career, left a lovely suburban home he had built for his downtown condo.
“I do a lot of downtown things,” he said. “A lot of my volunteer work is downtown.
“I found myself hanging out for 12 hours downtown and running home to freshen up and change and then running right back downtown, and I could be doing that four days a week.”
During one recent busy stretch of daytime meetings and nighttime concerts and events, he didn’t drive for six days.
“It was strangely a convenience,” he remembers. “You know, my car tells me how much percentage of time there is until the next oil change. It has been at 71 percent for two weeks. I can go four weeks without putting gas in the car.”
He agrees with “everyone else who lives downtown,” he said, that the one frustration of downtown living right now is the lack of a grocery store.
“On the sixth day, what you have to go out for is a carton of milk,” he said.
The AWB project includes retail space on the ground floor and commercial space on two or three other floors, and the developers have said they would like to attract a grocery store. Other downtown developers are also working on it.
Helfrich enjoys meeting friends at downtown restaurants for dinner, with The Dash-In having become a particular favorite. “It’s been fun to get out in the snow and walk to Henry’s” restaurant, he admitted. “There’s no lack of things to do down here. I enjoy the downtown living, and I have to say that at night the city is spectacular.”
The other big selling point for AWB Luxury Condos is the view, and everybody gets it. It makes even the smallest condos feel as big as the sky itself because all the energy-efficient windows stretch from 18 inches above the floor to the 9-foot-high ceilings. The view out those windows is fabulous all the time.
Johnson has learned to pause and wait for the reaction when people first experience The View.
“One of the biggest things that is a selling point for AWB is the views. You can’t figure out what the view is until you get up here. Each side of the building has such a different view. It’s so surprising.
“The famous line when people get up here is ‘I didn’t know Fort Wayne was so beautiful.’ We get comments like ‘it reminds me of Chicago or downtown Indy.’
“It’s really cool to see people start to believe in downtown. The views speak for themselves.”</p><p>Twenty of the 33 condos at AWB were sold as this magazine went to press, with “17 or 18” owners already in residence, Johnson said. Prices are $175 a square foot on the lower residential floors and $185 on the upper. With condo sizes ranging from 806 to 1,700 square feet, prices range from about $140,000 to about $315,000, with homeowner association fees set for 2014 at $3.25 per square foot. For contrast, a recent Midtowne Crossing condo at 668 square feet with one bedroom and one full bath was listed for sale for $69,500 with an association assessment of $164.
The AWB entry lobby is not yet finished, and only some hallways, given how quickly people wanted to move in, she said. The basement is home to Anytime Fitness, which is already open for business.
Dedicated parking spots in the parking garage on floors two through five come with each condo, and residents will have access to an outdoor patio on the fifth floor.
The developers will be in charge of the building until it is 75 percent sold, at which time a condo association will be formed to manage the building, Johnson said.
“It has been a really cool experience to be a part of,” she said. “It’s the pull of living downtown.”
First appeared in the May 2014 issue of Fort Wayne Monthly.