Two articles in today’s Journal Gazette, both are by Ben Lanka.

Harrison condos a tough sell

[…] Bob Coffee, president of the Fort Wayne Association of Realtors, said in an interview that revitalizing downtown is critical to the health of the community. Persuading people to live downtown in Fort Wayne can be a challenge, he said.

“I’m just not sure that people in Fort Wayne are quite ready for it yet,” he said. “When you introduce a product to a new market there are always challenges.”

Changing the perception of condominium living has been difficult, according to Jason Freier, CEO of Hardball Capital, owner of the Fort Wayne Wizards. Hardball is a business partner with Barry Real Estate, the developer of The Harrison condominium/retail project.

Freier said most people in Fort Wayne are accustomed to single-family housing, so the idea is to sell an attractive alternative in the condominiums. Overlooking the ballpark provides a unique amenity, but Freier said helping people understand the other benefits of condo living is sometimes a challenge.

For example, condominium owners will have to pay a monthly maintenance fee – calculated on square footage – to cover work on the common areas and water, sewer and garbage service. Freier said most homeowners would balk at having to pay a set fee each month on maintenance, but he knows of no home that doesn’t require regular expenditures for upkeep. He believes the annual maintenance costs of the condominiums would likely be less than those of a home.

[…] The construction of Harrison Square has increased interest in downtown living, even if that is not readily evident at The Harrison. Phil Davis, owner of Davis Realty Services, said the demand for the condominiums at Midtowne Crossing – in several buildings throughout downtown – has been high recently.

Davis estimated he’s personally sold about 60 units at the 104-unit complex, and in the past two years values on the condominiums have jumped about 20 percent. He said he also has a waiting list of people interested in the complex.

But that price is still far below what is being charged for condominiums at The Harrison, which Davis said has led people looking at The Harrison to refocus their interest at Midtowne. He estimated the Midtowne condominiums range from $50,000 to $140,000, while The Harrison’s prices range from $149,000 to $349,000.

“The problem is the price range of Harrison Square versus the price range of Midtowne,” he said. “To the typical Fort Wayne person, the Harrison Square project is just too expensive for their own budget or what they perceive the value to be.”

[…] Hardball’s Freier said he would love to be able to offer his condominiums for $90,000, but that isn’t economically possible for a building estimated to cost $20 million.

“Our first goal is to make this a premium product,” he said.

While he said the goal isn’t to make a killing on the condominiums so the entire development succeeds, he said they can’t just lose money by selling the units at below cost.

[…] Scott Glaze, CEO of Fort Wayne Metals, bought one of the condominiums overlooking downtown. Glaze has been a longtime supporter of Harrison Square and said he wanted to be a part of the project.

But Glaze said he doesn’t plan on living in the unit. Instead, he said, it would likely be used to house business guests visiting Fort Wayne. He said the price was high for this area, saying they are comparable to what he saw when visiting Greenville, S.C.

While he has heard the rumors and concerns about the condominium building, he said he puts more stock in the developers who did their research and are committed to the project.

“I have to believe there are a lot more people committed to it,” he said. “I’m positive it’s going to happen.”

Glaze’s use of the unit isn’t exactly what was touted at the start of the project – getting more people to live downtown – but Freier said the people interested in the condominiums are a range of young professionals, business owners and empty nesters. A more targeted marketing campaign will begin soon, Schoen said, to help finalize more condominium contracts.

New stadium opens door to new name

[…] Moving the city’s professional baseball team downtown could also mean a change in its mascot and its nickname.

Jason Freier, CEO of Hardball Capital, the Wizards’ owner, said several people have suggested a name change to him as the team prepares to move into a new stadium.

This is the final year the Wizards will play in Memorial Stadium, called The Castle by fans, as a yet-to-be named ballpark will open in April 2009 downtown as part of the $120 million Harrison Square project.

Freier said he has been too busy with other pressing matters, including getting units in the condominium building sold, to have a name change be a top priority. But he said it likely will be considered, especially because the name Wizards has nothing to do with Fort Wayne. Furthermore, it isn’t unique to the Summit City as Washington’s National Basketball Association team and Kansas City’s Major League Soccer team share the mascot.

The Fort Wayne Wizards mascot isn’t even an actual wizard, as Dinger is more of a dragon wearing a wizard’s hat. The Dayton baseball team in Fort Wayne’s league already is called the Dragons.

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