Construction on southeast Fort Wayne's Posterity Heights scholar house officially began Wednesday as officials broke ground on the energy efficient affordable housing project aimed at breaking generational poverty.
The $42 million project is the first energy-efficient affordable housing and transportation project in the state and is part of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority's Moving Forward program. There are five other Moving Forward projects planned for Indianapolis, Bloomington, Lafayette and East Chicago. Each project will have different developers.
The Fort Wayne project, at the former McMillen Park Apartments site, is being done by Indianapolis-based BWI LLC and Joshua's Hand, run by Cedric Walker.
"About 10 years ago when I first became mayor, this particular plot of land was nothing to be proud of. We had an exceptionally poor image of the city of the Fort Wayne right where we're standing," Mayor Tom Henry said. "And we knew we could do better. So we immediately went to work and put together the team to demolish and get rid of this entire area, which was once known as McMillen Apartments."
The scholar house, Henry said, will be a vital component for south Fort Wayne, providing people a helping hand up as they strive to create opportunities for themselves and their children. The city donated the 28-acre site to the project.
"Joshua's Hand has committed itself to the social side of economic development because no economy can grow without growing people," Walker said in a statement. "No matter how much money is spent, they're the most important part of this."
City Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, was equally enthusiastic about Posterity Heights and said it's similar to what happened following the Bowser Avenue tire fire in 1997. People were skeptical that anyone would purchase homes in what is now known as Renaissance Pointe, Hines said, noting that the project succeeded because people "bought in."
"The Lord has blessed Prophet Walker with this vision and all I can do as a humble servant is assist in that endeavor," Hines said.
The first of four phases, the scholar house will feature 44 two- and three-bedroom apartment units that incorporate 500 kilo-watts of solar and battery storage in an effort to create net-zero energy usage. That means the development will strive to create enough energy onsite to equal tenant use. The project will also couple housing with an electric car sharing program for residents. All of the scholar house residents will be single-parent students enrolled at one of the local universities.
Phase two will contain commercial retail space and a training center that includes a business incubator, grocery store and a federally qualified health center operated by the Lutheran Health Network. Phases three and four will see construction of lease-to-own townhomes and market-rate houses. That phase also calls for opening public pocket parks and community gardens.
In addition to land donated by the city, funding for the project came from a mix of private and public sources. Those sources include the city of Fort Wayne, low-income housing tax credits, HOME funds, Fort Wayne's Legacy Fund and a $2.5 million Regional Cities Initiative funding grant from the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority.
Phase one is expected to be complete by summer 2018.