Next year, visitors to Jefferson Pointe will have a new experience: being able to drive up to, and park in front of, stores on the interior pedestrian mall.
That's the plan the center's developers want the Fort Wayne Plan Commission to approve in upcoming weeks.
RED Development of Overland Park, Kansas, is proposing to run a private street with a roundabout through the middle of the popular lifestyle shopping center in southwest Fort Wayne. The new street would mean the interior of the center, now accessible only on foot, could be reached by vehicle from entrances on Illinois Road and West Jefferson Boulevard.
Jeff McMahon of RED Development said the company's experience is that's what shoppers prefer these days.
With online shopping digging into brick-and-mortar retail stores' sales, “I think the more convenient you can make it, the more likely people are to visit the store,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon.
Jefferson Pointe is nearly 20 years old, he said, and “I think (the changes) are overdue.”
One change that likely will not come as a result of the center's retooling is the loss of the central fountain. While plans show the proposed roundabout is where the fountain is now, “We'll do everything we can to preserve the fountain,” McMahon said.
However, the fountain may have to be raised or reconfigured slightly to accommodate topographic requirements, he said.
The fountain serves as a gathering spot for summertime Friday night music performances and Christmas-season activities, “and we don't want to lose that,” McMahon said.
He added the new street is designed so it can be closed for special events. The design also includes pedestrian walkways as well as about 30 new parallel parking spots.
For merchants, a benefit of the change is higher visibility for stores on the inside of the shopping center, McMahon said. He said he did not have Jefferson Pointe's current vacancy rate, but the feature should make it easier to attract retailers.
The developer is now looking to create “a more vibrant, downtown urban feel,” McMahon said.
None of the changes will go into effect for the upcoming holiday shopping season, McMahon said. They are expected to start and be completed in 2019.
RED was the original developer of Jefferson Pointe. The property was sold and was reacquired by RED in March.
The new 650-foot street is expected to cost $2 million to $3 million, McMahon said.
Plans also include a “future building” near the AMC theaters. The building would replace another building that was torn down when a drive was built to serve theater traffic, McMahon said.
But no plans are firm, he said.
The proposal, in the form of an amendment to a primary development plan, will be heard during a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 8 in Room 35 of Citizens Square, 200 E. Berry St.