WARSAW – The city’s long-awaited development at the north end of North Buffalo Street and along Center Lake is about to begin in earnest, with the developer predicting new homes could be ready for occupation by the end of the year.
Dave Matthews, founder of Matthews LLC, gathered with state and local officials and the contractor for a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday afternoon on a vacant lot on the west side of the street where some of the first homes will be constructed.
The event coincided with frigid, windy conditions, but marked another step in the city’s quest to redevelop the strip of land situated south of the lake and the city’s biggest collection of parks.
City leaders, for nearly 20 year, have seen the strip of homes and the former Indiana American Water Company building as having great potential for redevelopment.
“Its been a long, long, long time coming. It’s a game-changing project for our community. We’re excited,” said Mayor Joe Thallemer said after officials ceremoniously tossed some dirt with shovels.
The overall project includes a public park plaza along the lake, an adjacent mixed-use building and a row of residential developments that will include three types of homes.
“It will be a very charming street with very traditional designs and then a new commercial mixed-use building looking out over the waterfront,” said Matthews, who has made a name for himself with numerous high-end urban residential projects in South Bend.
His project in Warsaw is the first outside of St. Joseph County.
Matthews said the Thallemer administration did a good job of recruiting him. But demographics and the unique positioning of the downtown business district with the park and lake, made it more enticing.
He sees a demand for upscale housing.
“We think demand is strong. Warsaw has great household income for the people who work in Warsaw, but there’s not a lot of housing options for the luxury market,” Matthews said.
The residential portion of the project entails 25 mews (a British term for small homes), and 18 townhouses on the west side of the street and ten larger “city homes” on the east side.
Initial construction will involve three townhouses and four mews, Matthews said.
Significant construction is expected to begin in a month or two, and Matthews predicted that it will be “eight or nine months before we move people in. Probably by the end of the year, maybe the beginning of the next year.”
Two years ago, the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority approved a Regional Cities grant of $3.5 million to the city of Warsaw and Matthews LLC for the project.
The city oversaw extensive underground utility work in the past year. Some of that was held up over a land acquisition dispute. The road was repaved and now connects with Indiana Street by looping around on the northern end near the city parks office.
Several homes on both sides of the street and the vacated American Water building near the lake still need to be removed.
Plaza construction is slated to begin this spring, Thallemer said.
Final design of the multi-use building is still coming together, he said.