The building at 203 N.W. Fifth St. has been a high school, community center, and offices. Since April 12, the Central Lofts affordable housing complex has breathed new life into the structure while maintaining its historical significance.
The property opened in 1914 and partly served as Central High School’s original site. It was also the location of the Downtown YMCA, which moved across the street to 516 Court St. in 2019; the organization still owns sections of
the building. Indianapolis, Indiana, developer Jon Anderson purchased the building’s Shopbell section from the YMCA in 2018 and partnered with Indianapolis-based Crestline for construction
“This building went underused for a very long time, and we are so happy to be in it,” says LeeAnn Rickard, Central Lofts’ property manager.
Central Lofts features exposed brick, loft-style levels, skylights, and even the original gymnasium floor on units built inside the former gym. Already at 50 percent occupancy and still accepting applications, the building offers 62 one-, two-, and three-bedroom units (all with one bathroom) between 500 and 1,300 square feet. Some apartments in the five-story building have in-unit laundry machines, and every floor has a free communal laundry room.
Apartments, which are designated Section 42 housing for low-income families, include LEED Gold standard energy-efficient appliances and cover the cost of utilities; electric and cable are separate. Rent is based on a complex system, but at its core can be calculated from 30, 50, and 60 percent of the annual median income of Vanderburgh County for the entire household depending on unit size, resulting in a range of $266 to $800 per month.
“Our goal is to provide full, affordable housing to people who want to live Downtown, want to work and play Downtown, and we are happy to do it,” says Rickard. “YMCAs were founded to assist the community and people stayed in these rooms years and years ago, so every one of those doors represent a unit that was there, and now it still gets to be used.”