All Around Downtown: Northwest quadrant booming
By Chris Darby | WANE
Since the opening of Parkview Field in 2009, a constant rhythm of projects have been announced, constructed and/or introduced.
In a series of special reports throughout February, NewsChannel 15 is breaking down the recent, current and future developments around the area, using the Allen County Courthouse as the centerpiece.
WANE-TV talked to several people around downtown to gauge feelings about the change happening in the area.
“We’ve seen quite the change in downtown,” one man said.
“There’s all kinds of things going on downtown,” another added.
“It’s beautiful,” a shopper said. “I love it!”
The northwest quadrant is home to the most-talked about projects since the construction of the ballpark. These projects are the development of the riverfront and redevelopment of W. Columbia Street, commonly known as “The Landing.”
“I’d love to see more activity on the rivers,” said Norman Compton.
Riverfront Fort Wayne is the driving force behind developing the banks of the St. Marys River between Wells and Harrison Streets.
Fort Wayne City Council approved legacy money to go toward the project and mock-ups have been presented.
A common concern with the project is the quality of the rivers.
“I’m concerned with the environmental side of things and I see that’s being addressed,” Compton added.
Studies are being done and lectures are being presented about the health of the water. Riverfront Fort Wayne is also sponsoring walks along the banks, so people can get familiar with the plants and animals that call that area home.
“There’s a lot of options for entertaining,” Adam Hand said about downtown.
Those options will be a lot more plentiful if the updated “Landing” project comes to fruition.
Council also approved a loan for work to be done on W. Columbia Street. Drawings have also been unveiled for that project as well.
The goal of the project is to restore old buildings and bring new life to the area.
One business has already announced a commitment to opening on the street as a result of the updating.
Much of downtown development in recent years has targeted parking lots. Ash Skyline Plaza is an example of that.
“Buildings have been torn down and we have vacant parking lots,” Bill Brown from the Downtown Improvement Disctrict said.
The next spot for potential development could be the lot surrounded by W. Main Street, Harrison Street, Pearl Street and Maiden Lane.
“The city has done a great job with the redevelopment commission, with RFP’s, to get a developer to come in there and do something very cool, to its highest and best use,” Brown added.
No specific project for that block has been announced, but one idea is the boutique hotel proposed by Vera Bradley co-founder Barbara Bradley Baekgaard. The hotel does not have a specific location targeted, but is set to open in 2019.
MAIN STREET FACE-LIFTS
The appearance of the 100 block of W. Main Street has been changing.
“It’s wonderful to see all these new shops come in, all these buildings go up,” downtown shopper Cindy Houser told NewsChannel 15. “It’s beautiful!”
One of the newest businesses, Yummi Bunni, opened in the section of buildings recently renovated on Main Street. It has generated buzz on social media.
That block of W. Main Street also includes the “Fort Wayne famous,” century-old, Coney Island and a storefront up for sale.
Much work has been done on downtown streets and traffic patterns in recent years, such as the 2-way conversions of Fairfield and Ewing Streets.
The most noticeable change is perhaps Superior Circle, connecting Wells, Ewing, Fairfield and Superior Streets.
The circle replaced a traffic light with a round-a-bout, keeping traffic flowing in and out of downtown.
An abstract sculpture was added in the middle, in addition to new trees planted along surrounding sidewalks.
Superior Street connects the circle to the next residential project in the northwest quadrant, Superior Lofts at the intersection with Calhoun Street.
“There’s that New York-style loft building,” Brown exclaimed.
The brick warehouse-type building is expected to be home to new residential options in a restored building.
The project follows Randall Lofts, which sits about a block away, on Harrison Street, at the end of “The Landing.”
Randall Lofts is home to lower-income residents and offers business space on the first floor.