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  • A ceremony was held Monday for the official opening of Bottle Works Lofts on Pontiac Street. Residents of the apartments in the old Coca-Cola bottling plant will never spend more than 30% of their income for rent. (Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette)

  • People at Monday’s opening ceremony were allowed to tour a vacant apartment.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 1:00 am

Celebration for Bottle Works Lofts opening

Affordable housing has 'wow' factor

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

With 70% of units already leased, officials Monday afternoon celebrated the opening of Bottle Works Lofts, a project combining  historic preservation with affordable housing on Fort Wayne's southeast side.

The former Coca-Cola bottling plant at 1631 E. Pontiac St. has become 31 one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments where residents, although low-income, will never spend more than 30% of that income on rent.

The apartments fill a need, said Denise Andorfer, executive director of Vincent Village, Fort Wayne, co-developer of the project. 

“It will allow people not to be rent-burdened,” she said, adding that 41% of local renters are paying more than the 30% benchmark.

As a result, they find themselves having to choose between paying rent and paying for food, utilities, medicine, child care or transportation, Andorfer said.

City officials said the project has been more than six years in the making. The brick structure was built in 1943 and purchased by the city in 2012 with an eye to redevelopment.

The building sat vacant about 15 years, said Peter Schwiegeraht of Miller-Valentine Group, co-developer.

“Quite a transformation,” he said during Monday's ceremony. “For those of you from the neighborhood, you've seen it in its glory, and then in not-so-good shape.”

The renovated building maintains a retro/industrial style with super-high ceilings and exposed white brick and piping.

Some apartments and common areas feature skylights. Floors are dark, luxury vinyl planking, and apartments have an island divider between the kitchen and living area.

One apartment on display had a master suite with closet, bathroom and laundry facilities just steps from each other.

The building contains an on-site management office, community room, business center, media room and fitness center. Also planned are indoor and outdoor playgrounds.

Tiarra Suel, 27, a single mother of three girls, has been living in a Bottle Works three-bedroom, two-bath unit in one of the two buildings that make up the development. 

“It's a very spacious apartment. And I have a washer/dryer, and I have my own private entrance,” she said after the opening ceremony.

Suel, a certified nursing assistant, also is a junior at Indiana Tech. She said she didn't expect to be able to live in such a nice place when she was looking at apartments.

“I didn't expect it to be a 'wow' factor,” she said. “You don't even think you're on Pontiac (Street).”

The $14.5 million development also includes 19 lease-to-purchase single-family homes completed last year on sites throughout the surrounding Renaissance Pointe neighborhood. All the homes are occupied.

Andorfer said residents of the new loft apartments need not be clients of Vincent Village, which works to help people go from homelessness to stable, affordable housing. But the agency will play a role in referring clients and providing residents with information.

“The point is that this area is beginning to show new signs of life,” said Mayor Tom Henry, a Democrat running for reelection in November. “It really is a nice place to live.”

Those interested in living at Bottle Works can call 402-9257 or check www.mvahpartners.com/properties/bottle-works-lofts. 

rsalter@jg.net