Size of building, removal of trees questioned in Headwaters Lofts project

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – When Headwaters Park was built 25 years ago, the people who planned it foresaw a developing downtown, especially in the area around the park. Now, a paradox has been created as a developer attracted to the festival atmosphere plans changes to the landscape.

Monday evening, the primary development plan for Headwaters Lofts, a mixed-use development at the corner of Clinton St. and Superior Street downtown, was presented to the Fort Wayne Plan Commission.

The mixed-use complex would include a 633 space parking garage, 232 apartments and 15 town homes.

“They pushed the boundaries a little too much, a little too big,” John Shoaff told WANE 15. “They’re causing some problems on the street. They’re causing some problems with this wonderful alley of trees. They don’t need to do that.”

Shoaff oversaw the commission that designed and built Headwaters Park. He echoed the concerns of several people at Monday’s public hearing who said the building is too big for the space it’s being built on.

“I think they can pull back and get a better project, not just to solve our problems, but a better project for themselves,” Shoaff added.

Tom Trent, who represented the developers in front of the Plan Commission said he respectfully disagreed with Shoaff and the others who opposed the plan.

“There’s nothing in our proposed plan that doesn’t follow zoning requirements,” Trent said in front of the room.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the project comes down to the ash trees that line the Clinton Street sidewalk across from the Allen County Jail. Developers anticipate removing 19 trees from the entire property and replacing them with 8 others. Maple trees have been suggested as the replacements for ash and pear trees.

Trent said the developers held several meetings with festival and business leaders ahead of submitting the plans, but did overlook having a conversation with the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne. The Rotary Club was responsible for raising $21,500 to plant the trees that separate the park from Clinton Street back in 1994. They were designed to stretch south from the St. Marys River as far south into downtown as possible, ending at Superior Street.

Randy Roberts, speaking on behalf of the Rotary Club at the meeting, said he supported the project, despite the removal of the trees. The support was made under conditions which include reimbursing the group the cost to maintain the trees for three years, which totals $18,000.

Not only would the trees be removed buffering the town homes from the street, but the current sidewalk could be reduced from 10 to 7 feet, which concerned the president of Friends of the Park who told commissioners the project “encroaches on all public space around it.”

Developers argued the design was necessary to surround the garage which required a certain amount of spaces by the city, since around 250 current surface lot spaces would be removed.

“When we invest, we invest in the community,” Developer Rex Barrett said about working through the complaints. “Even though you have some differences with some people, you respect their opinions. They’ve been here a long time. You try to do everything you can to listen to their concerns and whenever possible, try to cooperate and solve some of the issues they have.”

A decision on a recommendation to City Council will be made at next week’s Plan Commission business meeting.

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