A brightly lit lobby has a pair of old-timers going at it, playing a lively game of cards. A few yards away, a gray-headed bunch watch television – laughing more at the commercials than the show.
Upstairs, a handful of 20-somethings sweat it out as they push to get lean during a workout session.
The two groups may seem at odds, but that’s the atmosphere downtown at Lamplight Inn of Fort Wayne, where owners are trying to ensure success at the assisted- and independent-living facility by adding services – and revenue streams.
The latest example is Mad Apple Crossfit, an in-house workout center that opened this month inside Lamplight, 300 E. Washington Blvd. Trainers teach various strength and conditioning programs for a $100 monthly fee.
Mad Apple already has about 70 members.
In July, Lamplight officials announced they are investing $500,000 to open a fresh foods and organic grocery on the east side of their building on the ground floor. While the store will have a captive audience with Lamplight’s more than 100 residents, walk-in traffic is expected to account for much of the business.
Other tenants are Zia’s Italian Cafe & Tea House, and a logistics firm and home health therapy business, both on the fourth floor. The businesses account for about $40,000 a year in revenue for Lamplight, which has a partnership with with Platinum Health Care of Skokie, Ill.
Lamplight Inn Chief Operating Officer Bobby Petras said he and his family are trying to get the most use out of the nearly 138,000-square-foot structure. After all, they have room to roam at the 13-story building that was once home to a Holiday Inn.
The Petras formula is not unique to Fort Wayne, though. Lamplight Communities has tenants at its other five facilities in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. The company came to Fort Wayne in 2010.
When we’re looking at adding (offerings), we ask: What is the next logical step?’ he said. We know that our residents would enjoy having a grocery, but members of the public want that, too.
In fact, the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission planned to conduct a grocery store market analysis and feasibility study, but Director Greg Leatherman said that is on hold. The analysis could cost up to $15,000.
We want to see how (Lamplight’s grocery) turns out, he said. It makes no sense to pursue a study if their grocery checks eight of the 10 boxes. I’ve been in conversations with Bobby and am impressed with who he’s working with.
Crews are doing preliminary site preparation work on the grocery, and Petras expects construction to begin in the spring.
By the time the market is complete, Lamplight will have invested at least $6.5 million in renovations at the center, Petras said.
Bill Brown, president of the Downtown Improvement District, admires the Petras family’s progress and initiative.
It seems they are trying to be very creative with their business model, he said. I like the fact they already have a population that lives there and are blending that with the public. They’re being adaptable.
After seeing that the elderly residents at the complex were unable to use the pool, Lamplight officials converted the waterhole into what is now Mad Apple Crossfit. The fitness center is directly across from the dining room, which has large windows separating the two areas.
The seniors don’t mind it, said Amanda DeLong, general manager at Lamplight.
In fact, when we talked about putting a barrier up, they said they wouldn’t like that. They said they like watching the young people because it reminds them of when they were that age.
Betty Fleck, 88, doesn’t hit the gym, but she’s too busy enjoying other aspects of the complex anyway.
I love it here, she said. I’ve got everything I need, and best of all I don’t have to cook or wash dishes after dinner.
As for Petras, he said the company will continue to explore ways of getting the most from its investment.
It’s funny, but when we first came here, we planned to designate part of the building as a retail area, he said. At the time, there weren’t really a lot of people living downtown, but I figured having a store would be a chance for (professionals) to come in and grab something on their way home.
Since then, The Harrison has all 43 of its luxury apartments filled and there is the promise of a growing downtown population with other residential projects on tap.
For example, last week, Ash Brokerage Corp. was announced as the centerpiece of a $71 million development that includes condos, apartments and townhouses.
Now there’s a real promise of more people living in the downtown area, Petras said. We want to respond to that.