FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The Allen County Jail sits on about 3 acres of prime riverfront property, surrounded by a park, a river and a dizzying amount of new construction.

It could be worth $1.7 million at the going land rate of $10 per square foot or $4.5 million, according to a compilation of land comps going back to 1999.

Or a whole lot more.

The county insures it for $98.4 million, according to Nelson Peters, county commissioner. That means if it burned down, it would cost that amount to replace it, he added.

Apartments, retail, and office space are being built right under the nose of the jail where about 700 inmates watch this activity from tiny, arrow slit windows on to the surrounding streets: Clinton, Superior and Calhoun.

The Allen County Jail, at Clinton and Superior streets, is shown Aug. 1, 2022.

County Commissioners have designated a new site for the county jail at Adams Center and Paulding roads, and with county officials making plans to build a new jail outside downtown, it could be safe to assume the jail will go the route all prized downtown property has gone lately.

Construction Control Inc, was designated as the construction manager and Elevatus Architecture, a local company with national credentials, was chosen to design the jail estimated to cost between $300 and $350 million. Jail financing will soon be announced with the contracted help of Indianapolis-based Baker Tilly municipal advisors.

But what will happen to the existing jail deemed too dilapidated with an out-of-date 4-story tower made from brick and stone?

The answer isn’t so easy. Although no one interviewed believes anything other than a mixed-use building will come of it, the land value is tricky. Owned by the county and coveted by the city, it will most likely be a negotiated deal and won’t be advertised for sale.

Real estate investor Mike Anderson, who recently purchased about 40,000 square feet on Fulton Street downtown for $1.5 million, said the most the public might hope for is that the county take the responsibility for tearing it down.  

“I hate to put any kind of figure on it,” said Anderson. “It’s not a huge piece of land, but it’s in a great location.”

WANE 15 asked the Allen County Assessor’s office to come up with a land value as a way of figuring out the worth.

The Riverfront at Promenade Park is a mixed use project through the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission that is located on the west side of the Allen County Jail.
The Lofts at Headwaters Park is another mixed use project that, when finished, will sit across the jail on the Clinton Street side.

The county measures downtown land by square feet, not acres. The jail sits on approximately 162,000 square feet. Using downtown sales prices starting with 1999, the average price per square footage is about $27.52; the median is $16.64. The median price per square footage indicates that half were over that price with the other half over it.

Using the average price per square footage, the value of the jail would be about $4.46 million.

But the land rate is much less. At $10 per square foot, that would put the property price at around $1.7 million.

The insured value of nearly $100 million could be closer to the actual market value, but will probably never be know.

“Would we get $98.4 million? I doubt it. But if we built a new jail estimated now at $350 million, that $98.4 million begins to make a little bit more sense,” Peters reckoned.

The property is bookended by two larger projects through the Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission. Riverfront at Promenade Park which stretches from Harrison Street, across from Promenade Park to South Calhoun, sits on about 150,000 square feet.

The $89 million project should be finished in the third quarter of this year, according to earlier WANE 15 reports. It sits on 3.44 acres and will feature more than 220 market rate apartments and seven townhomes, 24,000 square feet of office space, 14,000 square feet of retail space and 12,800 square feet of flex space used for retail, live-work units or townhomes. A parking garage with more than 900 spaces will be used by apartment residents. residents of Superior Lofts and county government employees, besides the public. The Redevelopment Commission is to lease, operate and manage the garage for 25 years.

Also under construction is the $68 million 6-story, mixed-use development, Lofts at Headwaters Park, on about 125,000 square feet. Normally, it is identified as the property adjacent to Club Soda, a landmark downtown restaurant. There will be 217 market rate apartments and 15 townhomes, 11.700 square feet of commercial space and a 651-space parking garage with about 320 available for public use. The Redevelopment Commission will lease operate and mage that garage for 25 years as well.

“Like every single development the city puts a bunch of money in to, I’ve got to believe developers are lined up salivating,” Anderson said. “That building will absolutely be torn down and something else will be built.”