Lawton lot, trail could be lowered for Headwaters Lofts construction

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A parking lot and trail at Lawton Park could be lowered to allow the construction of Headwaters Lofts about a half-mile away.

Barrett & Stokely, the developers for the residential, commercial and garage complex faced several hurdles in the process of proposing and building Headwaters Park. The latest was cleared Thursday night as the Board of Zoning Appeals approved the request to build in the 100 year floodplain.

In the simplest terms, in order for a new building to be constructed in a floodplain area, the amount of land affected must be dug out of another location in the floodplain. The board suggested not allowing Headwaters Lofts to have a certificate of occupancy until that compensatory dig is made.

That dig could happen at Lawton Park. Redevelopment Manager Joe Giant suggested lowering the parking lot and trail at the south end of the park by two to three feet. The director of the parks and recreation department, the owner of the land, approved of the discussion.

“We have given our input and support the use of a portion of Lawton Park which includes the parking lot just north of the St. Marys River,” Parks Director Steve McDaniel told WANE 15 in a statement. “In order to provide the additional floodwater storage, that parking lot would be excavated and lowered, then the parking lot would be rebuilt. This element of the development would need to be approved through the same processes as the rest of the proposal, but we do support this modification to the park space.”

Promenade Park would also be affected in this proposal – not physically, but on paper. Giant told the board that some floodplain yardage was banked in the construction of the park.

Two other locations suggested, but not discussed much were Guldlin Park near Van Buren Street and the area around Junk Ditch between W. Jefferson Blvd. and W. Main Street, near Swinney Park.

It wasn’t made apparent who would pay for work to Lawton Park. Giant made clear that the Redevelopment Department’s job is to eliminate “barriers to development,” but didn’t elaborate how much could be spent by the city to get rid of the floodplain barrier.

City leaders emphasized their support for the project Friday, calling it a tremendous addition to Fort Wayne, despite the complexity in the planing.

“The compensatory storage issue involves many properties along the riverfront,” City Spokesman John Perlich explained to WANE 15. “In the near future, we’ll be in position to determine the timeline and how costs for that work will be allocated. Several entities will be involved in the coordination of the overall project.”

Members of the board also pressed Giant and developers on a timetable of the work that could happen at the park, because there can be no loss to the floodplain as the building rises. It was unclear how quickly work could begin on the park, if the proposal was approved.

Developers have suggested it will take four to six months of digging out the contaminated land at Clinton and Superior Streets before construction of the building would happen. That work could take nearly two years to complete.

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