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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 3:57 am

Plan commission ducks duty on Brightpoint proposal

When Fort Wayne City Council considers a redevelopment proposal for the former Taylor University campus, it will have to do so without a recommendation from the city’s plan commission. When objections to the project were raised, the planning board dodged its responsibility and moved it along without a recommendation.

As a result, council won’t have the benefit of counsel when asked to balance the proposal to invest $8 million in an underutilized area against the concerns of some neighbors. The plan commission’s specific charge is to provide that counsel.

To her credit, Commission President Connie Haas Zuber spoke up in support of the proposal, noting that she lives in the vicinity of the project and is "willing to bet the value of my home on this one." City Councilman John Shoaff also went on record, telling a reporter after the meeting that he would not support the request.

Brightpoint, formerly Community Action of Northeast Indiana, wants to develop a residential community for small-business owners in the 800 block of West Rudisill Boulevard, at the former Taylor property now owned by Ambassador Campus Properties. 

Live/work projects are being developed in communities across the country, catering to young artists and entrepreneurs interested in establishing studios in historic and repurposed buildings. A former furniture factory in Goshen is home to one such development, The Hawks, where 35 apartments house artists or craftsmen producing paintings, pottery and more. There’s now a waiting list for 15 single-family homes being developed adjacent to the building.

At the proposed Enterprise Point, Brightpoint wants to develop 48 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, galleries, studios for web designers, computer programmers, artists and others.

About $700,000 in tax credits from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority is sought to finance the project, which would be donated to Brightpoint as a charitable transaction.  

A standing-room-only crowd packed the plan commission’s June 8 meeting, with many neighbors opposed to plans to rezone property on the north side of Rudisill from residential to commercial use. Some have raised questions about who will live in the apartments. 

The nine-member plan commission might have avoided a tough scene when it moved the question along to council without a recommendation, but its action certainly does not serve council – or anyone involved in the project – well.