FORT WAYNE – Fort Wayne will spend up to $1.5 million to reduce travel lanes on Jefferson Boulevard downtown to improve the area around Parkview Field and the Embassy Theatre for pedestrians.
The redevelopment commission on Monday unanimously approved plans to permanently eliminate a travel lane on Jefferson between Ewing Street and the Embassy by the end of the year.
Ron Dick, co-owner of Design Collaborative, said the aim of the project is to slow traffic in the area and make it more inviting for people to visit on foot.
Its going to make for a safer pedestrian experience, he said.
The idea of reducing the capacity of the street was first touted by a consulting study in 2010. Mayor Tom Henry made a renewed call for the plan during his State of the City address this year, saying the change will improve visibility and access to businesses, provide traffic calming and encourage economic development.
The project will create nine on-street parking spaces in front of The Harrision, the residential, office and retail complex just north of Parkview Fields left field wall. It would also increase the sidewalk for much of the south side of Jefferson and create a drop-off area for people going to and leaving the Embassy.
Kelly Updike, Embassy executive director, said her staff frequently discusses ways to increase customer safety, and noted that several people pull over to drop off guests – or when stopping to buy tickets – and use their emergency flashers to block through traffic on Jefferson.
This is a big safety issue for us, she said.
The Hagerman Group, which is constructing The Harrison, will serve as the construction manager for the project and be given authority to hire the contractors for the work. Greg Leatherman, city director of redevelopment, said it made sense to have the company already working in the area to oversee the project so it was done seamlessly.
He said the company will present the commission with bid information to prove that it sought competitive prices for the work. Leatherman estimated Hagerman will do 30 percent to 40 percent of the project itself.
The commission will finance the project with tax increment revenue from two special taxing districts: Downtown and Jefferson Pointe. The division of cost between the taxing districts has not been finalized, Leatherman said.
Work is expected to start on the project by September and be substantially complete by the end of the year. During construction, Jefferson is expected to be reduced to two through lanes, similar to the current lane restriction directly in front of The Harrison.