This Indiana-based property management group is investing $7.5 million in Southeast Fort Wayne

Despite its size, not much history has been preserved about the 28-building, 30.5-acre campus of apartments, townhouses, and amenities on Turtle Creek Drive off E. Paulding Road.

According to city records, the first portion of the sprawling complex was built in 1968 and developed by Jim Kelley, the multifaceted founder of Kelley Automotive Group. It was later expanded to its current size in 1980.

Property Manager Melonie Bradtmueller has heard from longtime residents that the complex was originally intended to provide high-end, blue-collar housing on the South Side for employers, like General Electric and International Harvester.

“From what I’ve been told, this was ‘the place to be,’” Bradtmueller says. “This was where you wanted to live when you moved to this side of Fort Wayne.”

Parkview Village is a 28-building, 30.5 acre campus.

But based on the apartment complex’s reputation in recent years, you might not know about this legacy.

When Bradtmueller started working there as a leasing agent about nine years ago, the situation wasn’t good, and while she’s seen some ups and downs as the campus has changed hands from management group to management group, there hasn’t been much progress overall.

Most recently known as Astoria Apartments in 2019, occupancy rates dropped to 16 percent, with only 65 of 388 total living spaces filled. Residents on Google Reviews complained of flooding, potholes, poor maintenance, and cockroaches.

At one point, conditions grew so bad that the City of Fort Wayne wouldn’t allow the apartments to accept housing vouchers, contributing to the area’s critical lack of safe and affordable Section 8 housing.

“It was a really, really distressed property,” Bradtmueller says. “It’s been down for so many years now, and the properties around it all look about the same.”

The apartments on Turtle Creek Drive have experienced ups and downs over the past several years.

As a lifelong Southeast resident raising her family only five miles away from her office, Bradtmueller sees the massive apartment complex’s distressed state as a symptom of broader disinvestment and neglect of the Southeast side. Since employers like Harvester left the area in the 1980s, few improvements have been made to compensate for the community’s losses.

But as of 2020, there is new hope on Turtle Creek Drive, thanks to a generous investment by James Management Group out of Carmel, Ind. Since taking over the complex in mid-January, the group has been busy conducting a $7.5 million renovation of the campus amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, transforming it into Parkview Village.

And this time, things are going to be different, Bradtmueller believes.

“James Management Group actually cares,” she says. “They’re helping us finally address things that need to be fixed. They're giving this place some love and attention. That is going to help not just this property, but this whole side of town.”

Parkview Village is a 30.5-acre campus at 2754 E Paulding Rd.

As Regional Director for James Management Group, Tiffany Brewer says that along with fully renovating the one-, two-, and three-bedroom units and townhouses, they’re adding amenities to the campus and improving on what’s already there, including a clubhouse, pool, business center, and fitness facility. An outdoor four-way play area will offer residents pickleball and basketball courts. There will be playgrounds, a park, and a dog park on an expansive stretch of property at the end of the lot, too.

Gearing up for its grand opening this fall, Parkview Village is currently leasing its pet-friendly apartments and townhouses with rents starting at $538 a month. Model spaces are outfitted with decor and ready for future residents to walk through on self-guided, pandemic-friendly tours. The complex is accepting Section 8 housing vouchers, too.

“One of our goals was to get that back up and running to help out people who are needing that assistance,” Brewer says.

Birsfield and Bradtmueller help lease apartments for Parkview Village.

This mentality of uplifting communities goes back to James Management Group’s values and “culture of caring,” explains Vice President of Operations Karen Birsfield, who has been with the company for more than 10 years.

While Parkview Village is, by far, the largest project the group has taken on in their work across Indiana, they’re using the experience as an opportunity to expand their portfolio and set the tone for future projects.

It could even pave the way for additional work in Fort Wayne, Brewer adds.

“We’re trying to make it a better community to intrigue other people to come to this area,” she says. “We could invest more here, as well.”

Bradtmueller shows off a fully renovated, model apartment.

So what sets James Management Group apart?

Birsfield says that previous property managers based as far away as California didn’t visit the area often, whereas her team is taking a hands-on approach and gathering resident feedback along the way. Based in Carmel, she and Brewer visit the Fort Wayne office every few weeks to oversee construction, local teambuilding, and help with leasing.

To maintain context and connection to the Southeast community, they’ve hired Bradtmueller and about five other employees to staff the Fort Wayne office and manage day-to-day operations. Now, it’s a matter of leasing and finishing construction against the odds of COVID-19, and perhaps most fundamentally, changing resident and city perceptions of the living spaces.

Despite the challenges of a statewide pandemic shutdown, construction is only about 30 days behind schedule, Birsfield says. In mid-July, several workers were walking around the campus, hanging off ladders, pounding exteriors with hammers, painting window frames, and hauling equipment in and out of buildings. The full renovation is expected to be complete by the summer of 2021.

Construction workers modify exteriors at Parkview Village.

While the apartments are called Parkview Village, they have no connection to Parkview Health, Birsfield says. Instead, the name was chosen as a way to align the apartments with growth and success in the Fort Wayne area, so residents might associate the new development with amenities, like Parkview Field.

“We want to tie it into the downtown area,” she says.

Construction in July at Parkview Village.

Just as downtown Fort Wayne has seen significant investment in the last decade, Southeast Fort Wayne deserves more investment, too, Bradtmueller adds. With a whopping 30.5 acres of space, the Parkview Village renovation has the potential to be a real game-changer for the community, she feels. For comparison, the city’s nationally touted Electric Works project encompasses 39 acres and 18 buildings.

Even so, Bradtmueller says they’re still trying to manage opinions of the housing facilities, which have been badly damaged by previous management.

“There’s a lot of comments like, ‘It’s about time,’” Bradtmueller says. “A lot of people want to see what it’s going to look like when it’s done.”

Bradtmueller helps with leasing at Parkview Village.

If all goes well, Bradtmueller hopes the project will drive further investment in the Southeast side—and boost the area’s residency. She encourages more locally owned businesses, like shops and restaurants, to choose Southeast, too.

“If people see a big property like this being taken care of like it should be and see how beautiful it can be, then I think it will bring more people who are interested in investing here,” she says. “I think this is going to help a lot.”

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.
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