FORT WAYNE - Fort Wayne’s Moving Forward project is bringing a first to the state’s second-largest city – a large solar array, which is part of an ongoing effort to make the development affordable for the community’s highest-need families.

Posterity Heights is a $42 million affordable, sustainable housing development being built in southeast Fort Wayne. It's being developed by Indianapolis-based BWI LLC on the site of the former McMillen Apartments. A key aspect of the design is a 500-kilowatt solar array, which is a critical element in the effort to drive down the cost of home ownership.

BWI Chief Executive Officer Gary Hobbs says the goal is to keep utility, rent and transportation costs at less than 45 percent of paychecks for Posterity Heights residents. He says, in traditional housing, those bills can often amount to 60-65 percent of take-home pay.

Technology is going to play a key role in the sustainable design and how residents use it. Developers are working with Indiana Michigan Power on the solar array. The utility is providing a battery to store the energy.

In addition, another partnership is giving Posterity Heights residents the opportunity to take part in their own energy conservation and offering rewards for doing so. BWI is working with Purdue University on gamification technology to help users monitor energy usage.

“Not only are we providing the solar energy, but we’re actually allowing our residents to see how much energy they’re using real-time, so that they can adjust their energy-using habits,” says Hobbs. “There’s awards that we’re looking to give away if they hit their thresholds to make it fun and interesting; putting their name in a lottery if they go below a certain threshold for the month relative to their neighbors and win a gift certificate to Walmart or whatever.”

BWI says demand has been strong for the first set of 44 apartments. Construction on the first phase is expected to be complete by the end of the month, with developers hoping to have it all leased by the first quarter of 2019. Hobbs expects the solar array to be installed and data collection to begin around the same time.

The first phase, called Posterity Scholar House, targets single-parent families where the renter is enrolled at a local college. The next phase will include a business accelerator and incubator, a grocery store and a federally-qualified health center leased by Lutheran Health Network. The third and fourth phases will feature rental and lease-to-own townhomes.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the project, Hobbs says, is how it pulls together contributions from multiple partners to create a model that he believes can be duplicated.

“When you add a net zero-type application, solar array with a battery storage component that benefits the utility provider and couple that here with the technology app that’s part of the National Science Foundation and Purdue’s research grant to look at ways of how you incentivize the communities, especially low-income communities to be more energy-conscious…those pieces make this project very, very unique, but also very impactful, and a business model we think can be repeated.”