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Condos offer amenities, prime location

The view from John Nichols’ under-construction residence is, he acknowledges, magnificent – especially if you’re a lover of Fort Wayne history.

Out of the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows is the sight of the historic Allen County Courthouse’s clock – at face level.

That’s because Nichols, one of the developers of luxe condominiums in the Anthony Wayne Building, 203 E. Berry St., has bought one of the project’s 39 units. He says he plans to live on the 10th floor when the space is finished.

Nichols’ decision to buy in shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given that the 51-year-old stands solidly in the heart of the project’s demographic.

“It’s empty nesters, downsizers, whose kids are out of the house and are excited about living downtown after living in the suburbs,” he says of those he believes will be attracted to the urban high-rise units.

Price tags start in low-six figures for 806-square-foot units and go up from there. A two-bedroom penthouse with 1,700 square feet (and no clock view) is priced at $297,500.

That amount, according to recent real estate listings, could more than buy 3,400-plus square feet in a two-story, four-bedroom, five-bath contemporary home in the upscale LaCabreah addition off Dupont Road. The home comes with a finished basement, three-car garage and a third-acre lot.

But Nichols, one of four partners in RCI Development, of Fort Wayne, says that’s not what some people are looking for. They want to be close to where they perceive the action is.

“Parkview Field was a way to jump-start downtown, to get people to come back downtown evenings and weekends. And the Embassy Theatre and Headwaters Park, with the festivals, that all has brought some new excitement. They all have caused people to come back and revisit downtown as a place to live,” he says.

Two of those people are Dick and Carol Schwartz, recent retirees who were looking to move to downtown Fort Wayne to be closer to arts and cultural events even before there was an Anthony Wayne Building option.

“We were a little bit interested in The Harrison when it was going to be condominiums, but before we could do anything, that project as condominiums fell apart,” says Carol, 65, who previously worked in graphic design for Fort Wayne Community Schools.

But the two are now in the process of selling their large and traditionally styled home near Foster Park where they raised their four now-grown children – in favor of moving to a sleekly modern, two-bedroom, courthouse-facing unit on the Anthony Wayne Building’s eighth floor.

“We’ve always bought older homes and reworked them,” Dick Schwartz says. “To actually pick out every little thing – every light fixture, where the wires are and where the walls are – that’s new to us. But it was fun.”

Carol says she thinks the unit, though in a building designed to house a bank and built in 1961, will seem homey.

The unit has crown molding in the main living area, eco-friendly bamboo flooring, wood kitchen cabinets and quartz countertops with complementing black appliances.

“I hope the condo looks warm and inviting as the warmth we’ve created in our house,” she says.

Dick, who calls himself “an active 66” and enjoys bicycling on the Rivergreenway with his wife, says one attraction to downtown was being able to walk to cultural attractions and events.

“We’re looking forward to walking to a lot places we go,” he says. “We’ve always attended events at the Embassy (Theatre), and it will be easier to do the little things, the little musical events and events at the library. It will be easier to do more things if we can just walk out and go.”

Nichols says a highlight of the living spaces are the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows that run the length of one side of each dwelling, with west-facing units overlooking the courthouse square and east-facing ones showcasing city skyline.

To make the spaces – which were designed to hold offices – seem more home-like, all the existing windows, which reached waist height, were removed in favor of ones that stretch to about 18 inches above the floor and were energy efficient.

“It made a huge difference,” Nichols said. “We removed hundreds of windows. It literally took us about a year removing them. It was worth it because that gave us a more residential feel.”

Buyers can choose to install things like bookshelf built-ins, a gas-vented fireplace with a stone surround and wall cuts that allow for additional light.

Kitchens are open-concept, with a breakfast bar opening onto the main living/dining area.

All units have laundry rooms, and some have office nooks.

Nichols says not all the buyers are facing their geriatric years – some buyers have been young professionals who work downtown.

He notes that when the building is finished, it will include amenities that suburban development, even of upscale villas, would be hard-pressed to match.

A basement-level, open-membership fitness club, Anytime Fitness, is already under way, he says, and on the first floor, developers are working to secure a grocery and convenience store or a coffee shop and restaurant.

The building has in-building covered parking, storage for bicycles and an area that will become an outdoor commons with cooking facilities for residents craving a bit of the outdoors.

With the first buyers moving in earlier this month, Nichols says he has commitments for about 20 units – a number that he says has not changed much in the last six months. Three of the units have been reserved by development partners, he says.

The building also has several commercial suites, including law offices, an information technology company and an interior design firm that specializes in offices.

Heather Presley-Cowan, Fort Wayne deputy director of community development, says Anthony Wayne now stands alone in the new-construction downtown condo marketplace, as both The Harrison and another project proposed as condominiums have now been converted to apartment projects.

She points out that projections from a study updated in 2010 show annual demand for 40 to 80 downtown high-rise condominium units with price tags ranging from $140,000 to $350,000.

Earlier this year, Anthony Wayne’s developers returned a $1 million loan to the city, saying sales were going so well they didn’t need it.

“I think that’s a huge indicator when someone turns down money like that. When the city decided to invest in that development market, the housing studies done for downtown already showed that this would work,” she says of the project.

“I think they (project developers) have confidence in what they’re doing.”

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