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Mar. 13, 2013

Randall Lofts Another Triumph for Downtown Ft. Wayne

By Jeffrey Steele, Contributing Writer

Ft. Wayne, Ind.—The historic Randall Building in downtown Ft. Wayne is being converted to apartments in a $7.5 million renovation and adaptive reuse project being undertaken by Carmel, Ind.-based RealAmerica Development.

Construction is slated to commence in late summer or early fall of this year, with leasing expected to get underway in April 2014.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority has announced that for the next 10 years, Randall Lofts Apartments will garner nearly $675,000 yearly in rental housing tax credits. The City of Ft. Wayne will contribute $600,000 in federal Neighborhood Stabilization 3 dollars to the project, with $450,000 coming in a loan, and $150,000 in a forgivable loan.

A 10-year phased-in tax abatement was also part of the package.

RealAmerica Development plans to convert the second through fifth floors of the five-story, 108-year-old Randall Building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the largest Victorian commercial block in Ft. Wayne, into 44 apartments. The ground floor will continue as commercial space.

“The Randall Building has been completely vacant, except for the ground floor commercial, for decades,” Heather Presley-Cowen, deputy director of housing and neighborhood services for the City of Ft. Wayne, tells MHN. “On the ground floor, you have a coffee shop, a yoga studio and a hair salon. RealAmerica was wise to keep those as tenants, which adds to the appeal of the building.”

The City of Ft. Wayne commissioned a housing market potential study prior to the recession in 2006, and another after the downturn had ended in 2010. The more recent study revealed the city’s downtown area could absorb approximately 180 new residential units annually, Presley-Cowen reports.

Substantial interest in The Harrison, a new apartment building in the city’s Harrison Square, and the Anthony Wayne Condos, high-end condominiums in another vacant downtown office building, indicate “there’s room to grow in residential unit absorption” downtown, Presley-Cowen says.

Prior to RealAmerica acquiring the building, the city invested in a lead risk assessment. “In an adaptive reuse project, lead risk assessments are really important, both from a health standpoint and because the presence of lead can present a very big budget issue,” Presley-Cowen says. “We helped RealAmerica uncover as many building unknowns as possible before they bought.”

The City of Ft. Wayne’s Housing and Neighborhood Services (HANDS) board and Ft. Wayne Mayor Tom Henry provided written support for the project.

Randall Lofts Apartments joins a growing list of downtown attractions in Indiana‘s second largest city that are luring folks to the central business district. They include the historic, recently renovated Embassy Theatre, the Main St. cultural district, the new downtown business school and media school of the University of St. Francis and nationally-acclaimed Parkview Field, five-year-old home of Minor League Baseball’s Ft. Wayne Tincaps, a Class A Midwest League team.

Randall Lofts Apartments, Presley-Cowen says, “is another statement from the development community that reflects and reinforces that housing market potential study.”

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