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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Salon Plaza, at Wayne and Webster streets, is being closed to make way for the Ash Brokerage development.

Giant project to consume tiny park

Downtown site’s name to live on at conservatory

– The massive Ash Brokerage project will not only alter the city skyline and help change the retail and residential landscape of downtown, but it will also help trade an eyesore for a new endowment.

Salon Plaza, a little-used park that had become a haven for drug use, had become a vexing issue for the Parks Department. Donated to the city in 1972 by Dr. Nathan Salon, along with a small endowment to care for it, the lot at Wayne and Webster streets in recent years traded changed from a small, urban oasis to a hangout for drug users.

“It was becoming a public safety issue,” Parks Director Al Moll said. “We couldn’t maintain it anymore.”

For about a year, the department has been preparing to sell the .08-acre plot, figuring its prime location across from the Allen County Public Library would make it an easy sale.

Of course, there were other considerations – like the Salon family and the roughly $40,000 endowment to maintain the park.

Then, insurance firm Ash Brokerage Corp. began looking at most of the city block that Salon Plaza inhabits for a $71 million development that includes an eight-story headquarters for the company, parking garage, retail space, condos, apartments and townhouses.

Ash Brokerage will occupy 95,000 square feet of the 200,000-plus-square-foot complex that will border Wayne, Harrison, Berry and Webster streets. Hanning & Bean Enterprises Inc. of Fort Wayne will spend $32 million on the residential part of the project.

So the parks department got two separate appraisals for the land and will sell it to the city of Fort Wayne for the average, $39,250, allowing the city to use the lot as an incentive for the Ash Brokerage project.

To honor the Salon family and the contribution its gift made to the city over the last four decades, the parks department will dedicate the outdoor plaza on the east side of Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory as the Salon Plaza. The area, which fronts Calhoun Street across from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, is a small plaza marked by tables and various plantings.

A marker and plaque will commemorate the designation, and Moll said the sale price of the land at Wayne and Webster will be added to the endowment and will cover maintenance for the new Salon Plaza.

“We feel strongly that the family should be recognized,” Moll said. “We wouldn’t have had any problem selling it, but we wanted to work with the family.”

Moll said the dedication of the plaza is expected in early October.