It’s doubtful the southeast corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Ewing Street in Fort Wayne will be mistaken for Hollywood and Vine.
But there’s a certain ambience about the Summit City’s corridor now that The Harrison has taken root.
The $18.5 million, four-story structure shows no signs of the struggle it took to build it. And officials are celebrating the leasing of all of the complex’s 43 luxury apartments, which they say went much faster than expected.
With Parkview Field and the neighboring Courtyard by Marriott – this is what planners envisioned more than seven years ago.
The mixed-used Harrison has apartments on the third and fourth floors. Retail space on the first floor accommodates 3Rivers Federal Credit Union and O’Reilly’s Irish Bar & Restaurant. The law firm of Carson Boxberger LLP occupies the second floor.
Residents use an underground parking garage.
The Harrison’s official opening was in March, and management put up a No Vacancy sign for the apartments about a week ago. The project dealt with delays; two summers ago, Mayor Tom Henry announced the creation of New Harrison LLC to take over the venture from Barry Real Estate, an Atlanta company that was supposed to have the building done in 2009.
Now, The Harrison is no longer on a designer’s page. It is downtown.
I love it. It’s cool here, said 26-year-old Austin Nickol, a medical device salesman who moved from Indianapolis after getting a job in the city. I’ve been living here five months. It’s not Indy, but it’s more tight-knit and I like it.
And Parkview Field?
That’s why I moved here, Nickol said. The ballpark view is great.
Nickol fits the demographic of who most expected would be attracted to downtown living, but Sue Foreman proves that The Harrison isn’t just for young folks.
The 85-year-old retired art teacher lives in a two-bedroom unit at the complex.
I moved from a retirement home in Fort Wayne, which is probably where I should still be, Foreman laughed. I’ve always been the kind of person to do things backward. I had more room than I needed to rumble around in and found out about The Harrison. It’s brand new, nobody has lived here before and it’s near my church. I don’t drive, so this works out nicely for my lifestyle.
Foreman does gardening for Trinity English Lutheran on Wayne Street, a stone’s throw from her new crib.
I haven’t lived here a month yet, Foreman said. I’m thinking about volunteering at the botanical gardens since that would be right up my alley.
Leasing agents for The Harrison said about 40 percent of the tenants are empty-nesters, while the majority are young professionals. They would not provide an income range of tenants.
Mark Hagerman, CEO of The Hagerman Group, and Simon Dragan, president of Whitley Manufacturing Co., partnered with Chris Schoen, CEO of Barry Real Estate, to form New Harrison LLC.
Hagerman, whose company built The Harrison, believes the public is proud of downtown’s newest landmark.
I’m very pleased that the community has accepted it as well as it has, he said. It’s a positive situation, but once in a while there are some negatives, and you have to be flexible and accept that.
For instance, businessman Robert Van Buskirk and his wife enjoyed having an apartment with a ballpark view, but customer chatter at O’Reilly’s had them settle for a street-side view.
We liked being there, said Van Buskirk, who owns two 800 Degrees pizza parlors in Fort Wayne. It didn’t work out, and I know we have to live with some noise. We might invest in downtown, but as other things come up there needs to be some balance between commercial and residential.
Kevin Moran is communications and information services manager for the International Downtown Association in Washington D.C., an advocate for development in urban cores. He said somebody’s doing something right in Fort Wayne based on how quickly The Harrison apartments filled up.
That’s a good indicator of success, Moran said. Every city is unique and is going to have its own unique challenges.
Considering how Harrison Square endured the Great Recession speaks to local investors’ ingenuity, he said. Originally, condos were to spring from The Harrison, but officials were wise to scale back, Moran said.
He also commended Fort Wayne leaders for forming a hometown company to get the project off and running.
You always have a greater chance of success when dealing with a local developer, Moran said. That’s not to say that out-of-town companies won’t work. You want to give yourself exposure with other cities.
BND Commercial Real Estate is handling leasing at The Harrison. Breck Johnson, a sales associate, said there was some confusion among prospective tenants who thought the units were condos.
We had to explain what they were, she said, but once they saw them, people were impressed.
That of course doesn’t mean The Harrison didn’t have its share of critics.
We had to work at changing the mindset of people, Johnson said. There are a lot of cool things downtown.
Bill Brown says he knew it wouldn’t be easy.
Fort Wayne is a community of people that are hard to convince and can be a little skeptical, the president of the Downtown Improvement District said. Still, once they see something that works they get behind it.