The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 09, 2021 1:00 am

Plans for US 30 site still unclear

Could bring 'tens and hundreds of millions' to region


Those hoping to learn who is planning to occupy a 634,000 square-foot, 100-foot-tall industrial building along U.S. 30 at Monday night's Fort Wayne Plan Commission public hearing came away disappointed.

The developer's representatives and a city development official clung tightly to a nondisclosure agreement they said was required by the prospective occupant of land across U.S. 30 from Sweetwater Sound.

But the payoff could be huge.

Nancy Townsend, director of Fort Wayne's community development department, told The Journal Gazette after the hearing that the business could bring economic benefits in the “tens and hundreds of millions to our community.”

She added: “There's no bad news here.”

Townsend said the business is in the warehousing and distribution industry, which is economically important and fast-growing, both nationally and locally. She did not directly answer a question asking if the company was in e-commerce.

Clues to the property's use came in developers' testimony about the project during the public hearing.

The hearing was required because developers want to set aside a primary development plan from 2018 that would have created 15 separate parcels zoned limited industrial or business, technology and industrial park.

The developers are also seeking a waiver for the building's height, which is 60 to 70 feet higher than allowed, and adding potential uses necessary to the user's business to a written commitment. 

Scott Sanders, vice president for development for Ambrose Property Group, Indianapolis, said the property, which is proposed to have parking for 1,200 cars and more than 200 trucks, should generate 1,000 full-time jobs.

The jobs will pay a minimum of $15 an hour plus benefits, he said. Jobs include forklift operators and managers. No manufacturing will be done in the facility, he said.

The potential investment got the name Mastodon Project because the developer names projects under confidentiality arrangements for sports mascots, Sanders said.

Ambrose formed the entity listed on documents as the applicant, AMS 2021 BTS-Fort Wayne, IN LLC, said Fort Wayne attorney Pete Mallers, representing the applicant.

Mallers said the project qualifies as the kind of use city redevelopment commission officials intended when they had the property rezoned in 2018 after buying it in 2015.

This proposal has been in the works about six months, he said. But it won't go forward without the height waiver, he added.

Developers said construction could start by summer and be complete by the fourth quarter of this year.

Existing woods, some of which contain wetlands, would not be disturbed, developers' representatives said.

They also sited the building as far as possible from neighboring homes and would place berms with trees along the north and east property lines to screen the development from residences.

Downward cut-off lighting would be installed, and the project should create no more noise than a car driving down the street, the developers' representatives said. 

The plan commission heard from nearby residents, who expressed concern about sufficient drainage on the property, which has a small pond in the northwest corner. Neighbors also were concerned about traffic on Flaugh Road on the property's west side, the effect spillover lighting could have on nearby farm crops and the impact on West Washington Center Road.

Gary Krager, who owns property along West Washington Center Road, said he felt those along that side of the property were not given as much consideration as a housing addition to the east.

His concern was about an entrance across from his driveway. The worry was not allayed when he was told the entrance would be an emergency entrance only.

Krager said he did not live on the property but bought it with the intention of living there later in retirement.

“I won't be doing that now,” he said after the hearing.

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