Zach Benedict faced a life-defining decision when he graduated from Ball State University with a master’s degree in architecture.
The Avilla native had job offers in Los Angeles, where he interned, and Fort Wayne.
Seems like a no-brainer, right?
But when Benedict weighed the opportunities, sun and surf lost out to urban renewal and revitalization, the topics of his undergraduate and graduate thesis papers. Northeast Indiana offered more potential projects that aligned with his passion.
That was just more than a decade ago. Since then, the 35-year-old has seized numerous chances to play a role in Fort Wayne’s downtown.
Benedict has volunteered his professional skills on various local renewal projects, served on the Downtown Improvement District’s board of directors and, in the latest twist, has been selected as the architect for The Landing revitalization project.
A partner in MKM architecture + design, Benedict was a fan of downtown before downtown was cool. He recalled that when he joined DID’s board in 2009, the organization’s goal was to plan exciting events "to sort of trick people into coming downtown." Benedict was also a DID board member when the Downtown Development Trust was created to offer local officials a way to buy property in strategic locations for future development.
"At the time, (local) people didn’t even know what a land bank is," he said.
And, like with the controversial Harrison Square project, some local people didn’t support the trust. But that hasn’t kept it from playing a significant role in downtown’s renaissance, Benedict said.
"Anybody who is a student of renewal knows," he said, "consensus isn’t the barometer of future success."
– Sherry Slater