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The Journal Gazette

  • This artist's rendering shows the proposed Ruoff Home Mortgage headquarters downtown. (Courtesy)

Thursday, September 05, 2019 1:00 am

Ruoff makes downtown move plans official

Filing done, but nothing final

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

It's official. Ruoff Home Mortgage is moving ahead with bringing a headquarters to downtown Fort Wayne – and perhaps easing parking problems, too.

The company has filed plans seeking approval of a new multistory building at 405 W. Jefferson Blvd. The 0.728-acre site stands across Ewing Street from Parkview Field and The Harrison and just north of Cityscape Flats.

The building will contain a parking garage in its lower floors.

However, said John Perlich, spokesman for Mayor Tom Henry, the city still does not have a formal economic development agreement with Ruoff, and “no plans are final.”

And, no information about the number of spaces or how they would be allocated is contained in the documents filed with the Department of Planning Services.

Perlich said plans ride on the approval of development standards variances, which “would be necessary to move the project forward.”

“Ruoff is doing its due diligence by submitting plans to the Department of Planning Services in order to determine if variances would be approved,” he said in a statement.

“We're hopeful this project will become a reality. It would be a great addition as part of our downtown revitalization efforts.”   

Ruoff seeks Fort Wayne Plan Commission approval of a primary development plan and variances for height and setback standards for the building, which will stand at least 170 feet high.

Plans also include larger-than-allowed signage for the upper part of the building. The signage requires approval from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Hints about Ruoff's plan have been circulating for nearly two years. The latest came last month when the Redevelopment Commission formally proposed including three city-owned sites where the building is planned to stand in a decades-old economic development area, making the sites eligible for tax abatements.

The reason for the move was described then as a plan for an unidentified multistory project combining office space and ground-floor retail.

As early as 2017, Ruoff was awarded a $5.88 million Community Revitalization Enhancement District tax credit from the Indiana Economic Development  Corp. for a downtown Fort Wayne headquarters. 

The project was said to cost $36 million, but in 2018 the price was cited as $32 million after cost-cutting.

With a brick facade and vast window expanses, the building would tower above the third-base line of Parkview Field.

The Ruoff structure is now described as having 119,040 square feet of space, with an additional 121,050 square feet of parking garage space. The parking garage would be entered from Ewing Street. 

Last year, Mark Music, Ruoff president and chief executive officer, told The Journal Gazette there would be about 240 parking spaces on four levels of an eight-story building, with one parking level below grade. It is unclear from the application if all that remains unchanged.

Music did not immediately return a phone call seeking updated information Wednesday.

But the application says that because the garage would serve “the surrounding area,” it should be granted the waivers.

The site is zoned downtown core and downtown edge, and the building footprint is larger than allowed in downtown edge zoning.  

The Ruoff garage is one of four recent downtown garage proposals.

The proposed Lofts at Headwaters Park on the Club Soda parking lot at Superior and Clinton streets is planned to have a parking garage with 600 to 700 spaces, while the proposed Ashberry Eight LLC five-story mixed-use building at Berry Street and Maiden Lane plans 353 spaces.

Expanding the Civic Center Parking Garage upward by two floors will add 225 to 230 spaces to its existing 1,013. The beginning stages of that project are underway.

The plan commission will consider the Ruoff proposal during a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 7. The board of zoning appeals' public hearing will be at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17. 

rsalter@jg.net