ADAMS COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – Drive south on U.S. 27 out of Fort Wayne and, in a few miles, a small sign tells drivers they’re no longer in Allen County, but Adams County.
The major municipalities in this county of 36,000 residents follow along the St. Marys River – Decatur, Berne, Geneva and Monroe.
The population is growing and five businesses have moved in, mostly manufacturing, in the last year, said Colton Bickell, executive director of the Adams County Economic Development.
With this kind of business growth, the county is looking to add housing. A recent market study estimates the county will need up to 1,025 new housing units in five years, two-thirds of them in Decatur, the county seat.
Single family homes are only a portion of that. The county is looking to add market rate rentals, condominiums, and townhomes.
The market potential is such that 62% of people looking for homes already live in Adams County, Bickell said. About 35% of people who want housing are younger singles or couples with no kids, he added.
“A lot of people looking on Zillow or other sites can’t find what they’re looking for so they’re going to other communities,” Bickel said. That would include Allen and Wells counties, both adjacent to Adams.
Mayor Dan Rickord said in order to get new housing, the county needs to incentivize developers with state and federal funding and tax incentives.
There are three subdivisions currently under construction. Rickord said as soon as those lots sell, housing will go up.
“You can look at the MLS and see there’s nothing available,” Rickord said.
The greatest need is market rate apartments. There are no apartments available in Decatur, where Rickord said the study showed the city could use 50 new apartments a year for five years.
Rickord also wants to capitalize on the riverfront, tree-lined and peaceful, where the city already owns property. With a public-private enterprise, a partnership could cut down on acquisition costs.
“If we have the land, then the acquisition doesn’t have to happen,” Rickord said, adding it could be sold or leased.
Asked about amenities Decatur might need, Rickord listed all the amenities that are there already, including the street sculpture and the annual sculpture tour, movie theater, restaurants and a plaza where weekly concerts take place every week in the summer.
Riverfront could mean kayaks, canoes and pickleball.
“I want to make that riverfront an asset,” Rickord said standing across from the historic courthouse at Second and Madison streets. “I just think Decatur is a very inviting city.”