Enterprise Pointe will house artists, entrepreneurs

August 1st, 2018

By Gwen Clayton | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

The Enterprise Pointe project received its final approval from the Angola Common Council July 16 for the rezoning of the property from low-intensity industrial to a planned unit development located at 907 S. Wayne St.

The project will demolish the current structure and build a completely new 50-unit apartment complex targeted toward entrepreneurs and artists with low to moderate incomes. The apartments will be two-bedroom and approximately 925 square feet per unit.

The Steuben County Economic Development Corp. owns the parcel and donated the property to the Enterprise Pointe project. Anti-poverty nonprofit agency Brightpoint will own the complex and co-develop the project with Keller Development, Danelle Biberstine, business development specialist for Keller Development, told Business Weekly in a July 19 interview. Keller Development will be the general contractor and its management company, New Generation Management, will manage the property for Brightpoint.

“We partner with the not-for-profits throughout the state of Indiana,” Biberstine said. “So we wanted to be involved with the project with Brightpoint in Angola. We have both looked in the Angola area for over eight years for a project that we felt would be really compatible or helpful to the city of Angola. When this project came up with the EDC property and talking with Isaac (Lee), we determined that this was a great location to do a live/work.”

The idea for the project was a result of the community’s need to address the workforce housing shortage.

“On the low end, our rent vacancy rate it really low,” said Isaac Lee, executive director for the Steuben County Economic Development Corp. “Most of our rental properties that we are aware of are occupied and have been occupied for some time. We know there are waiting lists. So that inventory on the low end is almost nonexistent.”

The EDC’s comprehensive planning efforts over the last few years have shown that they need to address issues besides zoning and actually become more proactive in terms of infrastructure development.

The Enterprise Pointe project will be subject to Section 42 of the rental subsidy housing program offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

According to HUD, Section 42 housing is still for income-qualifying renters, but unlike Section 8, the price of rent is not based on household income. However, rent is set at a rate below the average market rate based on the area median income. Additionally, applicants must meet qualifications. For the Enterprise Pointe project, the main qualification is the renters’ vocations.

“These 50 units will be first offered and occupied by artists and entrepreneurs who will be spending part of their time developing either concepts or businesses in this space,” Lee said. “The cool thing about this project is because it’s based on an entrepreneurial and artist spin, it’s going to have coworking space, studio space and a lot of amenities that entrepreneurs and artists will need to be within this space. Even in their apartments, there will be studio spaces available to them.”

The current building is the old, outdated general incubator space that was designed for low manufacturing uses of the 1960s to 1980s.

“It would have cost a pretty penny to rehab it to something that would be worthwhile to use, even in a concept like this or even keep it as incubator space,” Lee said.

Coworking space

Another part of the Enterprise Pointe project is the currently vacant shop to the north that will be the new coworking incubator space that’s designed for more professional uses than the shop floor found in the Enterprise Center on the south end of the property.

“We don’t need the 1,100-square-foot type of complexes to get some of these startups to get started,” Lee said. “They need about 25 square feet for a desk and then access to things like 3D printers, CNC machines and welding equipment. So they need makerspace but not necessarily manufacturing space. We’ve taken that into consideration with this project.”

The coworking space will have access to a one-GB Wi-Fi thanks to the rich dark fiber network laced throughout 160 miles of Steuben County.

Access to large machines like 3D printers, CNC machines and welding equipment can be found in the Enterprise Center at the south end of the property. The Enterprise Center was completed last year and features a shop floor for training vocational-trade students as well as office space and classrooms.

Entrepreneurs and low unemployment

One of the problems with low unemployment rates is that employed people are sometimes less inspired to become entrepreneurs. That’s not necessarily the case in Steuben County.

“The investment that’s been happening has been more robotic, more efficient, more automated processes, not necessarily spilling over into body count,” Lee said.

While bodies are needed to fill current vacancies, there is still a need for entrepreneurs, many of whom are coming from Trine University half a mile away from the Enterprise Pointe project.

Laker community housing issues

The housing inventory problem is unique to Steuben County because it’s historically been considered a laker community.

“Individuals who own lake properties are primary residents, but a lot of those properties are owned as a second home, a vacation home or even a rental property,” Lee said. “Although we have inventory on the lakes, the people that are buying those types of homes are not adding bodies to the workforce.”

In many cases, these residents are retiring, so they’re not paying income taxes, and if they’re using the property as a vacation home, they’re not paying sales tax in the offseason. In the meantime, lakefront housing tends to be on the high end of the market, which falls outside the affordability of most local workers.