Soil removal to begin Lofts project downtown

<p>Courtesy<p>An artist rendering of the Lofts at Headwaters Park.

Crews as soon as next week will begin readying the site of The Lofts at Headwaters Park for construction. The process will include removing soil 12 feet deep across the entire 2.86-acre site along Superior and Clinton streets.

Some soil removal is required by state officials to remove contamination from decades ago, a news release from the city said.

But most is to clear the way for the six-story building, which will include 217 apartments, 15 townhomes, 12,000 square feet of commercial space and an underground parking garage with 651 spaces.

The site – the parking lot of Club Soda restaurant and also land bounded by Duck and Barr streets – is owned by the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission.

The project is being constructed by Barrett & Stokely, an Indianapolis development company that is investing $67.8 million in the mixed-use building.

Barrett & Stokely also is the firm working on the Riverfront at Promenade Park, an $87.5 million project at Harrison and Superior streets, where structural steel now towers over the park entrance.

Virgil Bowers, program manager and estimator for Bunn Inc. of Fort Wayne, the project's excavating contractor, said not all the Lofts site's soil is contaminated. Soil removal is also necessary because the building covers almost the whole site and needs room for underground parking and its foundation, he said.

Project documents filed with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management say the site contains contamination from a former coal gasification plant on a neighboring property, now the site of Don Hall's Gas House. The parking lot site also was the site of a foundry and vehicle-related businesses, documents say.

Bowers said he knows part of the site contains buried cinders because he worked on the project when the parking lot was built.

“Some of the soil is actually good dirt,” he said, adding the tons and tons of soil will be removed by the dump truckload and likely landfilled. He didn't specify which landfill will receive the loads.

“This environmental remediation and soil removal is a significant step in building the Lofts at Headwaters Park,” Nancy Townsend, director of Fort Wayne's community development division, said in a statement.

“This project will help attract new development and investment, which is important to our downtown area,” she said.

During excavation and construction, a fence will be installed around the site and sidewalk for safety. Club Soda will remain open, and free parking will be provided at the lot at 120 E. Superior St. and other nearby areas.

Headwaters Park also will remain open, and the city will provide parking and staging area accommodations during the festival season. Parking also should be available in the garage at The Riverfront at Promenade Park beginning in early 2022, the news release said.

Geoff Paddock, executive director of the Headwaters Park Alliance, said he supports the project, even though it will require the removal of 52 trees.

But the developer has committed to replacing that number and planting 19 additional trees, he said.

“I think the canopies will match within a few years,” Paddock said Wednesday. The site might not be aesthetically pleasing during construction, he added, “but the end of that is a beautiful building.”

Construction of The Lofts building is expected to begin in summer and continue through at least 2023.