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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Stores are empty in Quimby Village off Bluffton Road. City officials hope the hiring of Indigo Centers can revitalize retail on the south side.

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Mayor Tom Henry looks on as Jeffrey Higgins, founder and president of Indigo Centers, speaks Wednesday about a study for growth opportunities on the south and southeast sides.

Thursday, December 03, 2015 4:05 am

City hopes 'first step' lures retail growth to south side

Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette

The city of Fort Wayne has tapped a Michigan company to help attract more retail to the city’s south and southeast side. 

Based in Birmingham, Michigan, Indigo Centers will review a recent study that identified opportunities for growth on the south side of Fort Wayne and create a targeted list of retailers and development. Indigo Centers is a retail real estate firm that specializes in advisory and consulting, leasing, brokerage, investment sales, property management and retail recruitment. 

"We did this because we must remain committed to increasing our economic development possibilities in the south and southeast part of our city, because we know there are opportunities in retail and restaurants and other forms of hospitality that all we need to do is take that first step," Mayor Tom Henry said.

"The rest will fall like dominoes. It’s happened before in our city, it’s happened in other communities, it can happen again."

The firm will be paid $5,000 per month over a seven-month contract. The contract also has the option to be extended until the end of 2016. 

"Our firm specializes in all things retail properties," said Jeffrey Higgins, founder and president of Indigo Centers. "In particular, we have done a lot of mall leasing, and most importantly, we have focused on retail recruitment."

A recent analysis on the potential for south Fort Wayne performed by the Gibbs Planning Group found that as many as 120 new retail shops and restaurants could be supported in the area roughly bounded by downtown to the north, Lower Huntington and Tillman roads to the south, Hessen Cassel Road to the east and the St. Marys River and Waynedale to the west. 

"A lot of cities will start with trying to recruit retail, but if you don’t know what you’re trying to find, it makes trying to find that much more difficult," Higgins said. "What the market study does is it gives us a head start."

Higgins added that his firm can also help take some of the pressure off city officials when it comes to marketing south Fort Wayne to potential investors, noting that often communities task already burdened employees with the additional work. 

Henry agreed, saying the city doesn’t have full-time staff dedicated to marketing the south and southeast parts of the city.

"That’s why (Higgins) and his staff are being brought up into our city to provide that service," he said. "We know we have the critical mass, we know we have the disposable income. It’s just a matter of letting potential retailers and those in the hospitality business know that."

Indigo Centers will use the Gibbs Planning Group study as a jumping-off point from which to begin work. The center will provide the city with monthly status reports. In addition to identifying specific retailers and development, the firm will represent Fort Wayne at two International Council of Shopping Centers conventions. 

Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, who represents much of the area being targeted, said he was pleased with the agreement as a step toward revitalization of the southern portions of the city. However, he noted that success will be determined in the level of investment that comes out of these efforts.

"The measurement for me is how (much investment) do we get," he said. "If we don’t get any, then it’s a failure."