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The Journal Gazette

  • The narrow strip marks parks property north of Duck Street. (Courtesy)

Thursday, August 15, 2019 1:00 am

Fest organizers leery of transfer

Say land for Lofts affects Headwaters access

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

The ownership transfer of a tiny strip of park-owned land along Fort Wayne's Duck Street on Wednesday revealed concerns about the effect of a major riverfront-related project on Headwaters Park festivals.

The Fort Wayne Parks Board, after a public hearing, unanimously voted to transfer to the city's Redevelopment Commission an 8-by-350-foot strip along the north side of Duck Street and the Club Soda parking lot.

Joe Giant, redevelopment manager, told the board the transfer would enable development of the proposed Lofts at Headwaters Park.

The multistory, mixed-use project by Barrett & Stokely of Indianapolis would contain 232 apartments, a 600- to 700-space parking garage in the interior and ground-floor commercial space.

But representatives of the nonprofit Friends of the Parks and the Fort Wayne Pride festival told the board the transfer of the land, and the overall development plans, could negatively impact festival operations.

Access to areas of the park used by food trucks and vendors would be curtailed without changes, said Kristy Lindeman, volunteer coordinator for the Pride Festival, aimed at the LBGTQ community.

 Also, the building is being built on one of the few area lots with free parking, she said.

“That parking lot is used to full capacity,” she said, adding the group “would have to look at other (venue) spaces” without changes to the plan.

Edward Welling, president of Friends of the Parks, said the parking area contains underground utilities that support the festivals as well as necessary access points for large vehicles.

“The plans do not indicate how these functions will be maintained,” he said, reading from a letter from the group submitted to the board.

The letter characterized the impacts as potentially “disastrous” and “crippling.”

After the meeting, Welling told The Journal Gazette that the Three Rivers Festival's Junk Food Alley, Germanfest and Rib Fest could all be affected.

But the group wants to continue to work with the developer on changes to the plans, Welling said.    

Justin Shurley, parks board member, said there are no plans to develop the land as a park, saying its only use now is holding about a half-dozen trees.

Board President Richard Samek urged the groups to take up their concerns with the developer and planning officials.

The Fort Wayne Plan Commission will conduct a public hearing on the plan at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 9 in Room 35 of Citizens Square.

Developer Rex Bennett of Bennett & Stokely did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

Previously, he said the company wanted to cooperate with festival organizers in timing and staging construction to minimize impact.

Should the development win the necessary approvals, the redevelopment department will work with the developer to mitigate festival impacts, said Mary Tyndall, the city's community development spokeswoman.

“Already, the development team has met with more than 20 people representing various festivals to identify ways to address concerns, and those conversations will continue,” she said.

Duck Street already has been formally vacated, she said.

Construction for The Lofts is expected to begin this fall if the project is approved.

rsalter@jg.net