The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, September 07, 2016 12:42 pm

Hearing set for affordable housing

Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne Plan Commission will hear details on three proposals to boost housing for low-income residents at a public hearing Monday.

On the agenda are plans for a new downtown site for the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission; the Scholar House development on the site of the former McMillen Apartments on Plaza Drive; and new wording for a document that could lead to new affordable housing on the city’s southeast side.

The Rescue Mission announced last month that the agency, which provides housing for homeless men, planned to move from 301 W. Superior St. to 400 E. Washington Blvd. at the southeast corner of Lafayette Street.

The new site frees the existing site for Riverfront development and allows the agency to nearly triple its space, officials said.

The move would require tearing down nearly 100-year-old vacant structures that formerly served as an auto dealership, a club/restaurant and a records storage company.

Plans for an 85,000-square-foot mission require a rezoning from "downtown edge" to "downtown core" to allow for the multistory structure and to allow mission officials to petition the Board of Zoning Appeals for a special use as a homeless shelter.

The plan commission also must approve a primary development plan for the site, which was given a positive recommendation by the design review committee last month.

If the plan commission agrees to rezone, that action must be approved by city council.

The structure is proposed as four stories, with the top floor initially unused or optional, depending on fundraising. The main entrance will be on an improved alley to the rear of the building. It would include 275 beds, a community resource center, a kitchen, dining hall, health clinic and chapel.

The Moving Forward Posterity Scholar House project, proposed by Joshua’s Hand, a Fort Wayne nonprofit, and BWI Development, Indianapolis, would provide 44 apartment units in two buildings, a community center and child-care center in its first phase.

The project aims to aid single parents by providing affordable housing and support services while they pursue an education.

The project seeks a rezoning from multifamily residential to professional offices and personal services to allow for the nonresidential uses and approval of a development plan which requests several waivers of setback requirements and includes a detention pond.

The proposal for the southeast area development strategy would remove language that states that additional subsidized housing for the area "should be discouraged until there is a better balance of subsidized housing throughout the Allen County community."

Heather Presley-Cowen, deputy director of Housing and Neighborhood Services, said the language from 2007 has hampered developers who want to bring that kind of housing to the area.

Although it was not the intent of policymakers to eliminate more subsidized housing from southeast Fort Wayne, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority was essentially downgrading such projects in awarding points toward funding because the projects appeared not to line up with community priorities, she said. 

Because it’s such a competitive arena, even one point can make a difference in whether a proposed project goes forward, Presley-Cowen said.

The commission also will take testimony on a 19-lot upscale single-family home project called the Coves of Cherry Hill. The nearly 10-acre site is on the south side of the 8300 to 8500 blocks of Rothman Road, north and east of the existing Cherry Hill subdivision and north of Cherry Hill Golf Course in St. Joseph Township.

The project does not require rezoning but is seeking approval of its primary development plan.

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