The magic numbers: 10-10-2020.
That's the date being floated for completion of downtown Fort Wayne's $27.7 million boutique hotel.
More than 100 people gathered in a parking lot at Main and Harrison streets learned the significance of the date Friday during the groundbreaking for the long-awaited 124-room specialty hotel spearheaded by Vera Bradley co-founder Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Provenance Hotels of Portland, Oregon.
The ground broken Friday morning was dirt that had to be hauled to the site and placed over asphalt. But officials said to expect real earth-moving in upcoming weeks.
Excavation of the parking lot will start “as soon as possible,” said Bashar Wali, president of Provenance, the new hotel's owner and operator, with construction starting soon after.
By the beginning of January, expect the five-story structure to be under roof, said officials from The Hagerman Group, the project's construction manager, and Hagerman Construction Co., both of Fort Wayne.
Rob Young, Hagerman's vice president for business development, said the project will likely provide 60 to 70 direct construction jobs and more than 100 if managers and suppliers are taken into account.
All the work, Baekgaard said, will fulfill a years-long dream to create a unique, Fort Wayne-centric hotel experience.
“It's not going to be another generic hotel,” she told The Journal Gazette after lifting dirt in a shiny, stainless-steel shovel. “It won't scream Vera Bradley. It's going to have my look, and actually, my mother's look. I like a lot of color and a lot of pattern, but classic.”
While the hotel has been informally called Fox & Main in planning documents, Baekgaard said a name has not yet been chosen.
But when guests leave, “I want them to remember” Fort Wayne and talk about the lovely hotel where they stayed, she said.
Cory Miller, partner in Elevatus Architecture, the building's architect, described the look of the interior of the hotel as “the living room of Fort Wayne.”
“That really gets interpreted from top to bottom with this hotel,” he said. Amenities include “a marquee ground-floor food and beverage operation” a rooftop bar, meeting space and retail space on the ground floor, developers said in a news release.
Dutch East Interiors of New York City has been retained to work with Baekgaard in designing the interiors. The company designed The Journeyman in Milwaukee and The Schofield Hotel in Cleveland as well as several New York City restaurant properties, according to its website.
Baekgaard was co-president of Vera Bradley until 2010 and still provides input on creative designs for the company, known for printed fabric handbags and luggage.
Also speaking at Friday's groundbreaking were representatives of government funding and investment partners, including the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission, the Allen County Board of Commissioners, the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board and Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry thanked Baekgaard for her efforts and investment in a downtown Fort Wayne “that, for a couple of decades, was quite quiet.”
Now, he said, the city “is getting more and more recognition, not just as a place to go visit but a place to contend with.”
Dan O'Connell, chief executive officer of Visit Fort Wayne, said the hotel is likely to become “the signature hotel of Fort Wayne” and serves a needed niche.
“It is going to be easy to sell a property like this across the country,” he said.