The General Electric campus isn’t the only former manufacturing site that’s being repurposed on the South Side of Fort Wayne.
A $14.5 million development called Bottle Works Lofts is taking shape in and around the old Coca-Cola bottling facility at 1631 E. Pontiac St., bringing momentum and neighborhood pride to the community.
Bottle Works Lofts includes 31 apartments in the historically renovated factory, and 19-single-family homes throughout the surrounding Renaissance Pointe neighborhood.
In late March, Mayor Tom Henry announced the completion of two homes on Winter Street, and to date, 15 of the 19 homes are already pre-leased.
Another important aspect of the project is that all of the living spaces are income-qualified. To Denise Andorfer, Executive Director of Vincent Village, Inc., that means one big thing: More stable, affordable housing. And that means hope.
“Many people are just one paycheck away from not being able to afford rent,” Andorfer says. “We want to help people stay stably housed.”
The former Coca-Cola bottling facility is at 1631 E. Pontiac St.
For almost 29 years, Vincent Village has been part of the Oxford Neighborhood at Fulton and Pontiac Streets near the Bottle Works site.
It started as a small homeless shelter in 1989, providing families with transitional housing at the old St. Hyacinth Church campus.
Then, in the 90s, it grew into a community housing development organization and started acquiring properties around the neighborhood.
The idea was to help formerly homeless families get better paying jobs and move into houses once they earned enough income, allowing them to build equity and rise out of poverty.
Now, as a co-developer on the new Bottle Works Lofts project, Vincent Village is expanding its impact yet again, providing families with the services they need to remain stably housed.
“Some of the (Bottle Works) houses will basically sit up next to our houses we currently own, and we will we have the supportive service contacts,” Andorfer says.
A new four bedroom home is part of the Bottle Works development.
That means the organization will be utilizing its connections to help the new residents at Bottle Works Lofts find services for childcare or job opportunities they need, so they don’t have to move.
“We find that helping people increase their income is really the best way to help them remain stably housed and provide a better future for their children because they won’t be constantly moving,” Andorfer says. “It really affects the child’s mental wellbeing when they have to move every year and make new friends.”
Along with providing families with stable housing and services, Bottle Works Lofts is also filling gaps in the neighborhood’s current living options, Andorfer explains.
Many of Vincent Village’s current rent-to-own houses were built in the 1920s and only have three bedrooms. Bottle Works houses will have four bedrooms, allowing larger families to feel more comfortable.
They will also have updated heating and cooling systems and new windows, which could save families hundreds of dollars per month in utilities.
In addition to the practical benefits, the new houses and apartments will offer residents the conveniences of modern living, including a community room, business center, media room, fitness center, outdoor shelter, and playgrounds.
But the physical aspects of the development are only part of the equation, Andorfer says.
Along with providing services to residents, Vincent Village is working on the human element of the project, as well, convening meetings among Bottle Works and its surrounding neighborhood associations: the Oxford neighborhood to south of Pontiac Street and the Renaissance Pointe neighborhood to the north.
She says the organization has fostered a sense of community among its current residents, and she’s optimistic it can generate a similar atmosphere at Bottle Works.
“We feel like we’ve built a lot of relationships that have helped stabilize the neighborhood and create an atmosphere where neighbors are looking out for neighbors,” Androfer says. “The goal is to help rebuild the neighborhood and create a sense of pride.”
The Winter Street garden is at 2518 Winter Street in the old Fire Station 9.
Bottle Works isn't the only place building pride on the Southeast side.
The Renaissance Pointe YMCA is already busy with activities for people of all ages, and the Winter Street Urban Garden at the old Fire Station 9 is getting ready to expand its operations, offering more fresh produce to neighbors.
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) National Housing Support Corporation is investing in ongoing revitalization of the area, too, with services like the Urban League and Head Start.
As Chief Executive of the Corporation, Nicole Ridley sees Bottle Works Lofts as one of many projects building momentum in Southeast Fort Wayne, along with the Posterity Heights scholar house and the future Electric Works campus at GE.
“These projects aren’t that far apart; we just need to continue to talk and collaborate,” Ridley says. “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”