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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, March 23, 2017 10:02 pm

Bowser Pump demolition plan is on again

Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette

Demolition work on the Bowser Pump buildings on Fort Wayne’s southeast side will resume next week despite efforts from area residents to save the 100-year-old structure, city officials announced Thursday. 

The McMillen Foundation, which owns the buildings, has told the city its wishes are for the building to be demolished, city spokesman John Perlich said in an email late Thursday.

The demolition project was put on temporary hold after opponents of the demolition asked that Indiana Landmarks, a statewide historic preservation organization, be allowed to evaluate the site. Indiana Landmarks had expressed a strong desire to acquire the site and redevelop it. 

"The city of Fort Wayne appreciates the hard work and dedication displayed by community advocates who were supportive of possible redevelopment opportunities," Perlich said. "However, efforts over several years have not led to a developer expressing interest in the properties due to the conditions of the structures."

Built by Sylvanus Bowser, who invented the self-measuring gas pump, the building was the headquarters for his manufacturing plant and later housed the Phelps Dodge Company for several decades. It was also the home of the Fort Wayne Police Department from the mid-1990s until the department moved to the Rousseau Centre downtown in 2012.

Paul Hayden, director of Indiana Landmarks’ northeast Indiana field office, said he spoke to a member of the McMillen family this week, who expressed the foundation’s strong desire to tear the building down. The foundation, Hayden said, wasn’t keen on the idea of restoring the property as an option.

"We were just hopeful that if we could present something positive about the building in a very short amount of time, they could come around to our way of thinking," Hayden said. "Mr. McMillen as of Monday was not terribly supportive of us rehabilitating the structure."

Despite the McMillen Foundation’s decision, Hayden said Indiana Landmarks has made a commitment to area residents to continue to try to find a way to save the buildings. The goal, Hayden said, is to do whatever is possible in a limited amount of time to put forward a very specific plan to renovate the property. 

Work to tear down the buildings will take several months to complete, at which time the land will be given to the Renaissance Pointe YMCA for recreational purposes. 

"Instead of allowing the buildings to further deteriorate, we want to ensure that the property is an asset to the neighborhood and can be used for recreation purposes by the Renaissance Pointe YMCA," Perlich said. 

dgong@jg.net