Should the residential south side of Jefferson Blvd. go commercial?

Peter Franklin Jewelers wants to build three commercial buildings on the south side of Jefferson, but residents there say the 38,000 square foot project will lower their quality of life.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Should the residential south side of Jefferson Blvd. go commercial? It’s a controversial question ahead of Tuesday’s city council decision.

Peter Franklin Jewelers wants to build three commercial buildings there, but nearby residents say the 38,000 square foot project will lower their quality of life.

Life is pretty residential for the folks who live in the neighborhood to the adjacent south of where Peter Franklin would build at the 4900 and 5000 blocks between Jefferson Pointe and Times Corner.

Only “lighter” businesses stand there currently, such as doctor and dentist offices. These are considered C1 establishments according to the Allen County zoning ordinances. Currently, these C1 businesses buffer residents from the “heavier” commercial businesses like restaurants, which are considered C2.

The owners of Peter Franklin want to build a new branch in the area that’s upsetting those who live nearby.

“It’s totally out of character and will change the dynamics of the whole corridor,” said Westwood-Fairway Association member John Hoffman. “It will impact drainage. It will impact traffic. It’s going to impact visually what happens, but more importantly it’s going to be detrimental to the homes that buffer up right to these properties.”

His neighbor J.R. Tomkinson fears a domino effect.

“If this one goes through, then every single one of those properties is going to petition to be re-zoned for commercial,” he said. “So we’re going to have to fight every one of those and we’ll lose every one of those if this one goes through.”

The land that Peter Franklin will develop literally butts up against Tomkinson’s backyard fence.

“If you looked in our backyard you see it’s right up against the proposed development,” he continued. “So, we’d be looking at my backyard and having a strip yard right there.”

Peter Franklin’s co-owner James Ball said Jefferson Blvd. is already plenty commercial and that them building their follows the trend, but they do plan to build with high standards.

“We’re talking about not a real large track of land,” Ball said. “A lot of Jefferson has already been developed. So there’s not a lot that’s still opened for that. With that which is open, I encourage them let us be the precedent. Adopt what we have. Adopt the architectural standards. Adopt the overall look of ours, the amount of green space and the water features we’re going to have. It is really meant to be just a very well done, high-end development. There are 88 businesses that are normally allowed in a C2 that will not be allowed in this [particular C2 area]. It ensures that it will be a first class development.”

This debate will continue at city council Tuesday night. According to Councilman Tom Freistroffer, R-at large, some council members are for it, some are against, and others are undecided.

“I don’t think there’s an absolute answer for [this,]” he said. “There’s a process for it and the neighbors have to be heard. At the same time, you’ve got property rights with the ownership here in Fort Wayne. Technically it’s not just about the project of Franklin Jewelers going in here. It’s bigger than that. The concept would be what is this going to look like for the future of our city and the corridor of Jefferson down here south on Jefferson Blvd.”