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Former hotel brings project a ‘wow factor’

August 3rd, 2016

By SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

The former site of a 19th century hotel is the latest property to be acquired by the group developing The Landing.

The Downtown Development Trust last week closed on its purchase of 111 W. Columbia St. The site, which is in the middle of the block, was once home to a series of hotels, including the 95-room Rosemarie, which was destroyed by fire in 1975.

The original hotel had marble staircases, mosaic floors, stained-glass windows and the city’s first hydraulic barber chair. It also hosted three U.S. presidents: Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield and Benjamin Harrison, according to “The Columbia Street Story,” a book on local history by Roy Bates and Kenneth Keller.

The two-story office building now sitting on the property was owned by Wilds Properties and has been assessed at $230,800, according to the Allen County assessor’s office. The change of ownership paperwork hadn’t been processed by the office as of Tuesday afternoon.

Mac Parker, the trust’s chairman, declined to reveal the sale price, which will be included in that public record.

The trust, a nonprofit organization devoted to revitalizing downtown, has acquired at least eight properties on The Landing over the last 21/2 years. The one-block, sycamore-lined stretch has been home to various retailers, restaurants, nightclubs and other businesses for more than 150 years.

In February, the trust gave the Model Group of Cincinnati the preliminary nod for a $20 million development deal. The organizations must agree on final terms before a contract can be signed. Parker expects that will happen this fall.

Zach Benedict of local firm MKM architecture + design was chosen as the architect.

The professionals were prepared to design around 111 W. Columbia St., but Parker is excited that they won’t have to.

“There’s going to be a lot of ‘wow’ factor that goes in there now that we have the Rosemarie,” he said Tuesday.

Parker declined to speculate what’s possible now that couldn’t have been worked into the project without that pivotal property.

“I’m going to leave that up to the developers and architects,” he said.

The Landing’s renovation is one of the projects included in the Road to One Million, northeast Indiana’s application for Regional Cities Initiative money. To receive a grant, trust officials need a detailed plan, including other sources of funding.

Parker hopes to make that pitch in the next few months.

The Landing project is closely aligned to the $100 million Fort Wayne riverfront development. The Landing will consist of mixed-use development, including 62 apartments. The riverfront will include a promenade and infrastructure designed to attract future commercial investment.