Residential developer named for Ash project

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) A developer for the residential topping of the rising Ash Skyline Plaza has been named.

Mayor Tom Henry ceremoniously announced Wednesday that Great Lakes Capital, a South Bend-based community development firm, will build the much-anticipated residential portion of the major downtown project that will be anchored by local insurance broker Ash Brokerage. A development agreement between the city and Great Lakes was signed Wednesday, the city said.

Skyline Tower, as it will be known, will include 10 floors of residential space, featuring 124 apartments. Great Lakes will also develop retail and office space – some 170,000 square feet of it – throughout the building to complete its total $40 million investment.

“I’m encouraged by the momentum we continue to see in our downtown,” said Henry. “(Great Lakes Capital) will be a great partner, and we appreciate their commitment to Fort Wayne as we work together to move our community forward in the right direction. Providing additional housing and retail opportunities in the heart of the city strengthens our position as a destination place for individuals, families and businesses.”

Henry added the city has done its due diligence to ensure the residential component of the project is “reflective of the tremendous investments taking place in our downtown and community as a whole.”

Right now, the plan is that the apartments will be 800-1,200 square-foot one or two bedroom units with rents ranging from $1,200 to $1,800 a month.

“These are going to be high-class apartments. They’ll go to great lengths to ensure the desires of those who want to work downtown and live downtown and it’s going to be there,” Henry said.

Great Lakes has been rumored as the developer of the residential portion since October.

Brad Toothaker, president and CEO of Bradley Company and managing partner of Great Lakes, praised the project. Both companies will relocate their offices into Skyline Tower, the city said.

“This project is the quintessential model of a public-private partnership with businesses and the community coming together to create a project that truly moves the needle for the region as it elevates the landscape of Fort Wayne’s downtown,” said Toothaker.

Toothaker added that two retail tenants are close to being secured, but who the businesses are can’t be released yet.

Great Lakes fills a void left by Bill Bean, the original developer of the residential portion who backed out of the $30 million project in 2014, citing delays in the project would increase his cost by around $500,000. That project would have been 17 stories tall and include 80 apartments, 10-14 condos and six street-front townhouses. But Tim Ash, CEO of Ash Brokerage, was never worried about securing another developer.

“There’s so much going on downtown and there was such a positive flow going, we knew there would be someone to step up,” Ash said.

Toothaker said the Skyline Tower will be apartments instead of condos mainly because it’s difficult to get a condo development financed.

“Apartments are easier to finance and it becomes a more long-term investment than a build and flip kind of thing. That’s more our design motivation. We’re long-term investment developers,” he said.

The $98 million Ash Skyline Plaza project is scheduled to open its parking garage in the coming weeks. The retail and commercial portion, with fine restaurant The Golden, local gourmet chocolatier DeBrand Fine Chocolates and Lake City Bank as anchors, along with the Ash office space, will open in May 2016.

“I’m happy to announce 100 percent of the space is occupied,” Ash said. “We had a floor for lease and now have signed agreements on that. We can’t disclose who’s leasing that yet, but it should be announced shortly.”

The city said Wednesday that construction on the residential portion could begin in late summer or early fall. Great Lakes’ retail and office spaces are expected to be completed in late summer or early fall 2017, with the residential portion planned to be opened in late 2017 or early 2018.

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