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The Journal Gazette

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Saturday, September 14, 2019 1:00 am

Furthermore ...

Development may permanently alter a prized downtown gateway

An early and wonderful example of downtown Fort Wayne's success can be found at Headwaters Park, where a proposed mixed-use development threatens some of the very elements that have fueled downtown's success.

Indianapolis-based Barrett & Stokely has proposed a residential/retail complex at the northeast corner of Clinton and Superior streets, just south of Headwaters Park. But as the Fort Wayne Plan Commission heard last week, the project threatens a portion of the panoramic sweep of ash trees lining both sides of Clinton Street. The developer wants to remove 19 of the majestic trees, a gift of the Downtown Rotary Club for the city's bicentennial.

After learning of the Rotary's contribution, Barrett & Stokely has apologized and offered to reimburse the club for the $18,000 it spent in recent years to save the trees from the emerald ash borer infestation and to acknowledge the contribution in some manner.

“I guess we're satisfied,” said Randy Roberts, past president of Rotary. “All things taken into account – would we rather the trees not be taken down? Absolutely.”

Anyone who has driven south on Clinton on a cloudless fall day would have to agree. The view of the city's skyline, framed by the brilliant trees, showed residents the power of creating a beautiful city gateway. As Headwaters Park matured and became a beloved community gathering place, we realized how thoughtful development can draw people to an area that once held no aesthetic appeal.

The Fort Wayne Plan Commission is expected to vote on the plan Monday. The city's redevelopment commission must also weigh in on parts of the proposal. There are questions remaining about the size of the project, parking, sidewalk access and the development's effect on Headwaters Park and its operations.

The Lofts at Headwaters Park looks to be a fabulous addition to downtown, but Fort Wayne is in the enviable position to be a bit more particular about development. Now is the time to make concerns known.