Downtown Fort Wayne could soon be getting a new hospital, but it would be built within feet of homes in the West Central Neighborhood there, leaving some residents weary of the plans.
“Some of the concerns from the neighborhood have been the fact that the hospital is moving west into the parking lot which is a challenging project to fit a vibrant new hospital right up against residential,” said West Central Neighborhood association President Ben Wahli.
The plan right now is to build the Lutheran Downtown Hospital in the parking lot to the west of the current St. Joseph Hospital, then demolish St. Joseph.
The new building would be right across the street from homes in the neighborhood.
“I’m concerned about the transition,” said George Wilson who lives in West Central. “All the disruption it’s going to do to the neighborhood when they’re building the new one, and then when they tear the old one down, I think it’s going to create a lot of dust and debris in the neighborhood.”
Disruption from construction and demolition is not the only worry people have in the neighborhood. The new building’s design also has some concerned.
“I don’t think the building looks like it belongs in West Central,” said West Central Resident Emily Bayer who said she’s thought about moving if the plan goes through as it stands now. “I also feel concerned about issues. I have an 18-month-old son. Parking, traffic.”
Wahli has already had problems working so close to a hospital. He’s working on restoring a property that is next to St. Joseph hospital, but he has run into issues with some of the hospital staff.
“The challenge is that Lutheran Hospital doesn’t allow smoking on their campus which makes sense to me,” Wahli said. “Unfortunately, the staff comes over to a project that we’re developing, and even though we put up no trespassing signs, we find that they’re ripped off and there’s trash and debris around and those types of things.”
Even though they have their concerns, West Central residents also see a benefit to the new hospital.
“I am supportive of new medical care and access to medical care closer to the center of the city,” said Bayer.
“I’m not against it once it’s done,” said Wilson.
“The west Central Neighborhood has been experiencing a lot of growth,” Wahli said. “As people move downtown to the West Central Neighborhood, the amenities that they’re looking for would include a new hospital. So, I believe a new hospital is important to the amenities and to the growth of downtown.”
In a statement to WANE 15 News Lutheran Hospital said “Lutheran Health Network has been in close contact with the neighborhood association. Those ongoing conversations have already resulted in several design elements being included to address concerns raised.”
The Fort Wayne Plan Commission still must approve the plan before construction can begin. If it does, Lutheran says it plans to break ground next week.