Monday, May 18, 2015


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Councilman: Developers get an “F” southeast

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Like many living in the southeast quadrant, Councilman Glynn Hines is frustrated with the lack of commercial and retail development.  But unlike others, he’s pointing a finger at developers — not the city.

How would you grade the city’s progress in implementing the Southeast Area Development Strategy?
A 2004 study shows, out of the four quadrants in Fort Wayne, the southeast has the second highest buying power. Yet empty lots continue to line areas listed as prime for development.
“I have an issue with the development community getting more involved and being committed to the development of the southeast quadrant,” Hines said.
The Democrat has represented the 6th District in Fort Wayne City Council since 1999. In 2007, Hines played a role in the Southeast Area Development Strategy, a 10-year plan to revitalize his community.
Because of the empty lots and lack of new development, 15 Finds Out discovered community leaders who don’t give high marks to the city for implementing this plan so far.
But Hines looks at it differently.
“Part of it as it relates specifically to housing, it’s an A+,” he said. “I think the area of greatest disappointment to me has been in the development side. Specifically what you hear a lot about restaurants and big box stores, I think that’s clearly an ‘F’. I don’t think there’s been nearly enough done since the study began to address that.”
In April, Mayor Tom Henry (D-Fort Wayne) said he was willing to give one of those empty lots to a nice restaurant willing to locate near Southtown Plaza. Hines said Applebee’s was ready to take the offer, but backed out last minute.
“They talked about saturation of the market, which is ludicrous,” Hines said. “I get, and I call it, literally beat up by my constituents by the lack of the upscale sit down restaurants or the big box stores. [They say] ‘I can’t go buy a nice suit in the southeast quadrant. I can’t go and get a nice steak or a nice dinner compared to what’s available in the other areas.'”
The majority of the Fort Wayne’s homicides happen southeast. But like leaders at Greater Fort Wayne Inc., Hines doesn’t think it deters developers.
“You have a greater chance of having your car broken into or having your purse snatched at Glenbrook, but yet that doesn’t stop development at Glenbrook Square Mall,” he said.
The councilman pointed to the newly renovated McMillen Park Community Center as a big plus for the community. But like others, he thinks it’s time to update the strategy southeast.
“I think yes, we need to go back, reengage the community, reengage the developers, of course have the city at the table, let’s have this conversation,” he said. “I usually use the example that Fort Wayne is a ship, and if you have a hole in the ship, the entire ship will sink. If you have a lack of commitment to the entire community and the southeast quadrant is the area you don’t pay attention to and don’t invest in, it affects the entire city.”
Tune in next week to hear what Mayor Tom Henry and Challenger Mitch Harper think about the progress and concerns southeast.

Why aren’t more businesses locating southeast?

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Many areas in southeast Fort Wayne listed as prime for development have sat empty for years. Why aren’t more retailers and commercial businesses locating there? That’s the “magical question” according to Greater Fort Wayne Inc.

How would you grade the city’s progress in implementing the Southeast Area Development Strategy?
The Southeast Area Development Strategy is a 10-year plan aimed at revitalizing that section of the city. As 15 Finds Out previously reported, there’s been significant public and private investment following the strategy. But eight years in, residents haven’t seen many new commercial and retail developments.
“If I had an answer to that I think we’d maybe see more,” said John Urbahns, executive vice president of economic development with Greater Fort Wayne (GFW).
Urbahns doesn’t have a definitive reason for the empty lots that line the corridors in prime development areas and wouldn’t grade the city’s progress on the plan. But he said Fort Wayne City Council members have recently asked GFW to look into bringing more businesses southeast.
“We definitely will be taking a look at that with them to see what else can be done,” Urbahns said.
The majority of Fort Wayne’s homicides take place in the southeast quadrant of the city.  But according to Urbahns, that isn’t a concern for developers.
“I would say the majority of the conversations we have, have nothing to do with crime or its impact on economic development,” he said.
But John Dortch sees it differently. He’s the president of the Southeast Business Advisory Group and CEO of the Fort Wayne Black Chamber of Commerce.
“Some of the challenges are most certainly crime,” Dortch told 15 Finds Out. “People get concerned about that. Whether it’s a reality, even the perception, it becomes a reality.”
Dortch is personally helping small business startups with a new minority entrepreneur business center off Calhoun Street.
In the meantime, Urbahns said GFW’s main retail-related efforts are downtown.
“If you have a strong downtown, strong business climate, strong economy, you’re going to continue to see investment throughout the community,” he said.
Progress and frustration southeast has become a hot topic this election season.  Next week, 15 Finds Out continues its investigative series with Mayor Tom Henry and challenger Mitch Harper’s thoughts on the progress. 

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