The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, September 17, 2019 1:00 am

Lofts near Club Soda approved

More trees, sidewalk in plans

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

The developers of Headwaters Lofts, a proposed downtown residential building adjacent to Headwaters Park, have modified their plans, allowing for wider sidewalks and more trees along Clinton Street. 

The primary development plan for the project was unanimously approved Monday by the Fort Wayne Plan Commission. The project does not need to go before the City Council.

“They were able to shift the building toward Barr Street, which gained them about three feet and are now able to have a 10-foot-wide path instead, which is now considered a trail width, as opposed to a public sidewalk width,” Michelle Wood, senior planner, told the commission. 

Shifting the building east also allowed developers to include more trees along Clinton Street to replace the 19 autumn purple ash trees that will have to be removed as part of construction. The trees will be planted in two rows – one of columnar oak and another of maple – on Clinton Street, Wood said.

In all, 21 trees will be planted along the corridor, Wood said, for a net gain of two trees. The original plans called for eight maple trees to replace a portion of the ash trees slated for removal. 

“You will eventually have a canopy over the walk,” Wood said, adding that the developers were also able to add eight additional trees along Barr Street. 

The developers have also increased the width of the trunk of the trees to be planted from 21/2 inches to 31/2 inches. 

Several residents raised concerns with the development during a Sept. 9 Plan Commission public hearing, criticizing the project for its size relative to the land it will sit on and lamenting the loss of trees given to the city by the Downtown Rotary Club more than 20 years ago. 

The project will create a 547,000 square-foot building adjacent to Headwaters Park, which will house 232 residential units, with an attached parking garage of 633 spaces. Of those spaces, 401 will be available for public use, Wood said Monday. That will leave one parking space per apartment unit.

Parking for Club Soda will also be affected as part of the development, Wood said. Surface parking will be available for Club Soda about nine months after construction begins. In the meantime, arrangements are being made with the Wayne Township trustee's office for parking, and there have been discussions of offering a shuttle for those who need to park farther away, Wood said. 

The parking lot for Don Hall's Gashouse has not been part of those discussions, Wood added.

The time frame for the development is still uncertain because of digging that's expected to take three to six months. Although some activity might happen at the site this year, most of the work will take place in 2020. 

In other business, the Plan Commission unanimously approved changes to the city's zoning ordinance regarding sexually oriented businesses.

That amendment, which makes changes to the city's intensive commercial, or C-4, zoning, is the result of a federal lawsuit brought last year by the owners of Rabbit's, a strip club that formerly operated on Calhoun Street. 

Most significantly, the changes in the zoning ordinance reduce the required distance between establishments from 1,000 feet to 300 feet and changes the way the distance is measured.

Under the proposed amendment, the distance would be measured from the building to the property line. The distance is currently measured from property line to property line. The zoning ordinance had not been updated since 2001, City Attorney Carol Helton told the commission.

“We have to have so many sites available for sexually oriented businesses, and with the 1,000-foot reciprocal setback, we were exposed to an argument that we didn't have enough available sites,” Helton said.

The amendment also changes several definitions to reflect those definitions included in an ordinance adopted by the Fort Wayne City Council last month governing the operations of sexually oriented businesses. 

The amendment must now be approved by the City Council. If approved, it will affect only new businesses seeking to open within the city limits.

In two other unanimous votes, the Plan Commission approved primary development plans for 41 North Senior Apartments and a new mixed-use downtown project near Maiden Lane across from the Community Center.

The 41 North Senior Apartments development is a three-phase project that will include 304 residential units near the Jackson Lehman YMCA. About 136 of those units will be built in the first phase.

The downtown proposal calls for a new five-story parking garage, as well as new commercial space. The primary development plan calls for a 190,000-square-foot building a maximum of 80 feet in height.

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