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Historic transformation

“Pontiac Square” project a little closer to happening

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


Maybe you haven’t heard about “Pontiac Square,” a neighborhood revitalization project lead by one of the nation’s top companies in the field to transform the old coca-cola bottling plant into loft-style apartments (that’s part of Phase 1, at least).

It’s been the subject of a few meetings and forums in the last several months, while those heading up the project get all the official permits and paperwork in order.

Most of those particular hurdles have been jumped, and now, the public will get a chance to see the developers vision of the project at a free talk hosted by ARCH on Saturday, January 28.

David Block of The Community Builders, Inc. and Ron Ross II of locally-based architecture and engineering firm Martin & Riley are the “guest gurus” at the presentation, which actually has two objectives.

The first is showing how owners of properties on the National Register of Historic Places might be eligible for tax credits incurred in preserving the property. And as authorities in that particular area go, Block is at the top — he’s the Director of Planning for The Community Builders, Inc., the largest non-profit developer of mixed income neighborhoods in the US, with offices in Boston and Chicago (Block is from the latter).

“A part of our objective is to share some the technical details about how you preserve, or adaptively reuse, an historic building, and what are the technical tools — both architectural and engineering but also financial — on how to make that happen,” says Block.

But the presentation will also be an update on “Pontiac Square,” a project to revitalize some of the properties near the corner of Pontiac and Anthony, in particular converting the old Coca-Cola bottling plant there into loft apartments. “Part of our presentation is going to be to share our excitement about the design with the audience,” Block adds.

“We’ve been talking about this project for quite a while with folks from the City, folks from the state housing finance industry, and quite honestly the response has been tremendous — people are intrigued with the idea of putting housing in that building, they’re intrigued with the idea of what we call ‘filling in the missing piece’ in that area.”

The plan is for 31 loft-style units in the building, a prospect that Block says has met with a lot of enthusiasm. These would be “true” lofts, with high ceilings, a wide-open floor plan, and a sleeping area above.

In early 2010, The Community Builders, Inc. was one of just a handful of national non-profit organizations to receive an allocation of funds ($78 million, in TCB’s case) from the Neighborhood Stabilization2 program, a federal program that was established to “stabilize neighborhoods whose viability has been and continues to be damaged by the economic effects of properties that have been foreclosed upon and abandoned.”

With that funding allocation comes an obligation to spend a certain amount of money in each state, explains Block, so The Community Builders began talking to officials in the different states where they were active — TCB had already done projects in East Chicago and Indianapolis. “A lot of the folks we were talking to at the state level told us, ‘if you’re interested in doing high impact, interesting, complex neighborhood revitalization work, you really should talk to the City of Fort Wayne’,” Block recounts.

TCB started looking at the troubled Renaissance Pointe area. “The best way to leverage revitalization opportunities in that neighborhood would be to focus on that southeast corner down at Pontiac and Anthony,” Block says. “The thing that immediately jumps out at you as you drive around is this beautiful old bottling plant building.”

TCB recently negotiated an option to purchase the property contingent to financing. “We went through the zoning process with the city, we got planning commission approval, we’re now waiting for financing,” says Block. “We submitted an application to Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority in November 1, and we’re expecting a decision by early March on whether or not we’ll get the tax credits we need to move forward with this development.”

Block stresses that this is the first phase of a multi-year undertaking. Phase 1 comes in at around $19 million, with subsequent phases around $30 million. “We’re leveraging federal, state, and local funding, plus a large amount of private funding.”

The presentation is free and open to the public.

Tax Credits and the National Register of Historic Places
Saturday, January 28 at 11:30 AM
Auer Center for Arts & Culture Conference Room
300 East Main Street
Fort Wayne


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