New plans for The Landing redevelopment unveiled

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The vision for “The Landing” has been unveiled and we’ve learned that one building will be torn down in order to make room for another. The big news was revealed at The Landing Unveiled event downtown at the Arts United Center.

The plan is to mix in with all the old is something brand new: a multi-story mixed use building. Restaurants and retail on the 1st floor, a 2nd floor office space, and remaining floors residential. In order for that to happen the Rose-Marie building at 111 W. Columbia will have to come down. The idea is not just to revitalize Columbia street, but to reinvent it.

“[It’s] restored historic architecture,” said Steve Smith, President and CEO of The Model Group. “It was beautiful when it was built so really we want to restore that beauty. There will also be a new construction component that will not attempt to mimic the historic rehab. In fact you wouldn’t want it to.”

Renderings for the redevelopment of The Landing, a collection of buildings and parking lots on the westernmost block of Columbia Street, were unveiled Thursday. The Fort Wayne Downtown Development Trust, City of Fort Wayne and the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne were apart of the presentation.

For the last three years, the Downtown Development Trust, in concert with the City of Fort Wayne and Greater Fort Wayne, have been working to procure grants, solicit funds and purchase land along Columbia Street. The Downtown Development Trust spent nearly $3 million acquiring seven buildings and two parking lots along the block, totaling 110,000 square feet of available development space with plans to turn the area into a potential art district with a mix of housing, businesses, and entertainment, according to a press release from Greater Fort Wayne. According to Smith there’s already interest from local entrepreneurs

“They are very creative and they are authentically Fort Wayne,” said Smith. “These are Fort Wayne entrepreneurs that are going to hire For Wayne employees and live in Fort Wayne and tat’s what we want. We’re not trying to duplicate the experience you can get in another city or at an express way interchange. We want something that’s uniquely Fort Wayne.”

When the city of Fort Wayne began in the early 1800’s, nearly all the goods and merchandise that either entered or left the city made their way through The Landing. Canal boats would arrive and depart daily from the Wabash and Erie Canal for more than 100 years. The Landing’s commercial success led to the development of government buildings, hotels, and banks.

The area’s energy eventually shifted away, until Mayor Harold Zeis launched the Commission for the Preservation of Historic Landmarks. Joan White, wife of prominent businessman Ed White, was named chairwoman. White purchased five of the buildings along the street, two of the most prominent being The Dill Pickle and The Big Wheel. To White’s credit, The Landing regained commercial success for several years, restoring the area to its original glory until the Whites moved to Arizona.

The Downtown Development Trust was formed in 2011 as a not-for-profit to buy vacant or underused property in the downtown area with the purpose of redevelopment. President of the Trust, Mac Parker, said that The Landing redevelopment project aims to cement downtown Fort Wayne as a place where people want to live, work, and play as a regional destination serving all of northeast Indiana.

Over a year ago, the Development Trust chose Cincinnati-based property development firm The Model Group to redevelop The Landing. The Model Group specializes in revitalizing urban neighborhoods and was behind the redevelopment of Cincinnati’s historic Over-The-Rhine community, which had previously been one of the nation’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

The total cost of the redeveloping the area is projected to be $35.7 million. The city of Fort Wayne’s Legacy Fund board will consider a request for funds for the projects Nov. 9. From there, City Council will consider the project Nov. 22 and then the Legacy request Dec. 6. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation will also consider the project.

If the timeline stays on track, construction on the redevelopment could begin in early summer 2017. Greater Fort Wayne Inc’s Director of Downtown Development Kirk Moriarty said the project would take 18 months to two years to complete.