City and state officials and developers took sledge hammers to a brick wall Tuesday to symbolize the start of a long-awaited project to rehab the former Fort Wayne Paper Box Co. into 72 housing units known as Superior Lofts.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry joined with Ronda Shrewsbury Weybright, president of RealAmerica Companies, and other dignitaries for the ceremonial start of the project, described as a catalyst for the success of the proposed Riverfront park project and the redevelopment of The Landing along Columbia Street.
"We have a passion for development," said Weybright, whose company also redeveloped the nearby Randall Lofts and spent about three years on the preliminary work for Superior Lofts.
"This is an opportunity in Fort Wayne for us to go to the next level."
Superior Lofts, at 102 W. Superior St. just west of Allen County Jail, is designed with three kinds of occupancy.
According to schematics displayed at Tuesday’s news conference in the cavernous first floor, that level will be divided into seven commercial spaces – a 6,900-square-foot space with a loading dock on Calhoun Street and two blocks of 6,500 and 6,700 square feet. Each will be divided into three spaces ranging from 2,000 to 2,700 square feet.
Above will be three floors containing up to a dozen different models of one- and two-bedroom loft-style apartments ranging from about 680 square feet to just under 1,300 square feet.
The basement is planned to become a 12,000-square-foot climate-controlled rental storage area for businesses.
Weybright said to expect a ribbon-cutting on a finished space in about a year.
The project received $2.7 million in Industrial Recovery Tax Credits from the Indiana Economic Development Corp., said Devin Hillsdon-Smith, the agency’s director of interagency affairs and redevelopment.
The tax credits are sometimes known as Dino Credits, for their role in bringing back "dinosaur buildings" – unused industrial property, he said.
In Superior Lofts’ case, the credits are helping rehab a brick building that has sat vacant since 2010. The oldest section was built about 1905, and two other sections were added in the 1920s and ’40s.
The project also received a $1 million, 10-year tax abatement after being declared a tax increment financing district and $1.2 million in HOME funds from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Jeff Ryan, vice president of development for RealAmerica, based in Fishers.
On a tour of the building’s second floor, Ryan said a unique aspect of the project will be creating a light well in the center of the building via a skylight. Another will be incorporating round pillars and brick supports into the interior design.
"People love to have that because it shows the guts of the building and gives an industrial look," he said, adding that apartments will generally be arranged around the outer perimeter of the building to take advantage of large walls of windows.
He said the apartments would rent from about $700 to $1,300 a month and some would be available for lower-income residents because of the HOME funding.
Ryan said about 200 inquiries for the units have been received. More information about them is available by calling 260-206-6080 or emailing SuperiorLofts@RealAmiercaLLC.com.
Weybright said RealAmerica has been in business for 22 years and has completed many other new construction multifamily developments, including Hamilton Pointe and Tillwater Pointe.
The company’s latest project is Randall Lofts, a rehabbed building at the northwest corner of Harrison and Pearl streets.
"Randall Lofts got us started, and gave us the drive to do this over and over again," she said, adding that building now has a waiting list.
Henry acknowledged that and noted more than 2,000 people now live downtown.
"It’s not that often we have a developer step up and say I want to redevelop a building this large," he said. "There were times this was a significant battle, but she never gave up."