Response to Superior Street Row letter

Michael McKay,  with Morrison Kattman Menze Inc., has responded to Jack Swinehart’s letter to the editor, which they titled “Don’t build homes near festival site“.  His article, which the JG titled, “Residences will add to vibrant downtown” was published in yesterday’s paper.

Residences will add to vibrant downtown

As the architect and member of the development team of the Superior Street Row project, I feel compelled to respond to the fears presented in W.J. Rhinehart’s letter, “Don’t build homes near festival site” (Dec. 28)

The letter represents a prevalent misunderstanding of urban development and redevelopment, one that attempts to apply suburban attitudes and controls to an urban context while ignoring the reasons why people choose to live downtown.

First, the land for this proposed project is already zoned to allow mixed-use development, which is highly desirable and needed for a thriving downtown. A project of this nature is not “housing” but rather commercial and retail space at street level with residential space on the upper floors. Rezoning of this site is not necessary or needed, and our proposed project complies with the master plan for downtown, the design guidelines for downtown and the comprehensive plan for the city of Fort Wayne and Allen County.

Next, our proposed project is a complement, not a threat, to Headwaters Park and the festivals, concerts and other events held here. We see Headwaters Park as an asset, not a liability, and the residential component of our project are urban lofts, designed specifically for people who chose to live in the city center, an environment filled with noise, activities and events 24/7. It is the very reason people will choose to live there, and those concerned about the noise need not apply.

With all due respect to Headwaters Park, the park by itself does not provide the diversity and quality life of that Rhinehart speaks of. In its current state, this park is used more by visitors to downtown rather than residents of downtown. As an urban park, Headwaters Park needs more people living around its boundaries (look at all of the successful urban parks in successful downtowns around this country), providing more use and the diversity that was mentioned.

If Fort Wayne is to ever have the chance of re-establishing a thriving, exciting and vibrant downtown, then we need more of these projects, not less, providing more and different types of space for more residents to not only work and play downtown, but live there as well – which is what we did in generations past.

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  1. I am glad that he expressed this. When I first read the original letter I understood the perspective, but I also felt as if it was the fear of progress.

    As Michael suggested, Headwaters is more of a commuter park people drive in to utilize it – sometimes. Adding this mixed development will add residents who can utilize the park as well as patrons who want to go out for a walk. It would be nice to make Headwaters park more central park-like and allow people take walks, run, plays Frisbee, walk dogs etc.

    I am not planning on moving downtown, but as a Fort Wayner I want a vibrant downtown. A little noise, do to some healthy activity, is a welcome thing. We already have a dead downtown lets liven it up some.

    • I can assure you that Jack is about as pro-progress and downtown revitalization as they come. I really would like to respond to this project with my thoughts, but have some other things on the burner at this time. I will say that the original concept for Headwaters Park encompassed over 300 acres and was integrated into the surrounding neighborhoods. It had to be scaled down because the funds just weren’t there.

      You wrote, “A little noise…” You’re talking about more than a little – try a whole lot. When a friend of mine who lives in Wildwood Park near Ardmore and Jefferson calls me during the summer and tells me he can hear the festival music plainly, that’s more than a little noise. 🙂

      I will say this: I absolutely fell in love with the concept and concept drawings and floor plans that I’ve seen concerning this project. I think it’s absolutely wonderful and exactly what Fort Wayne needs more of. But, that said, to dismiss someone’s concerns as uninformed or against downtown revitalization is simply wrong.

      It’s a great project, I question it’s location.

  2. I don’t think that he is against revitalization. Apologize if it came out that way. I just feel this overwhelming fear that we don’t urbanize too much. Those who choose to live in downtown areas know about the sound and the noise. The “little noise” is an understatement, but again, I think those who want to move downtown will be OK with that. those that live in the Three Rivers Apartments do it.

    I don’t think large, Urban downtown are supposed to be quiet places, they are supposed to be lively that is apart of the attraction. If the project moves – which is unlikely – I will not put up a fuss, but I personally believe it could work where it is.

    I do, however, agree, with the need to revitalize some of the older industrial buildings downtown and not only concentrate on new buildings. If we can turn around some of those buildings then I think we will make some real progress.

    Thanks for your response.

    • no apologies necessary – I didn’t take your comment that way. It really is a great project and the only thing I have a problem with is the location. I do know one of the sticking points for the project is that the developers thought they were going to be able to get the entire parking lot, which was not the intent of the RFP. They were supposed to meet this week to discuss the matter, but I don’t have any updates.

    • Actually, I didn’t read your comment all the way through as it doesn’t display the entire comment in the mode I was in. You’d be surprised how many noise complaints there are from people living in Three Rivers Apartments. It’s the same thing as people who move near a railroad track and then complain about the train noise and horns. Remember, that’s why some communities passed ordinances prohibiting excessive train horns. This is not an overwhelming fear. Again, the “fear” is not about over urbanization.

      Here’s something to think about though – why is it that every time someone expresses concerns about a project, they are instantly against downtown, revitalization or whatever? When you have that kind of attitude (and I’m not directing this at yourself) you have a tendency to overlook things that could be a problem down the road. That’s the real danger here!!

      Same thing with Harrison Square. No matter the concern raised, the person was instantly labeled as being against progress or downtown. So I guess my point here, is just as developers want us to trust them that they have done their homework and due diligence on a project, we who live downtown, work downtown, are involved with downtown, have a right to have our concerns heard and at least seriously considered.

  3. Part of this is perhaps my perception and thoughts on “downtown.” I do think parts of downtown should be lively, noisy and busy. For me that adds vibrancy. This is why I don’t understand why it would be an issue to have this project in this location. Now everyone is going to want to move there, but I would expect that young professionals and D.I.N.K.s (Dual-Income, No Kids). The basic premise, of the noise from headwaters, isn’t a tipping point for me. I see the potential bustling new area as “progress” away from a dead downtown. However, if more people aren’t in favor of having that noisy space we shouldn’t have it.

    I say “fear” because I almost never hear significant issues about developing in suburbia or in a suburban manner. It seems that urban developments usually get the complaints. It is a from a macro standpoint of the community not individuals. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my issues with the way somethings happen or taking on certain projects (including, Harrison Square and this one), because I do.

    I agree with you though. I think that often many are like me and are defensive when objections are made because they don’t know where they are coming from and with what intentions. I don’t think this should be, but I think part of it spawns from the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a vision for downtown – unless I missed it – so people come in with various thoughts and ideas that are sometimes in conflict.

    • Great discussion! I truly appreciate your comments.

      I think part of the problem is the fear of the unknown. There are too many “if’s” that are reliant on people. The developer insists that only people without noise issues need apply, however, we all know that if someone is going to be able to afford the rents/purchase prices of the apartments/condos, they can afford good attorneys. The parking lot issue is also a problem. That lot is needed for the events that already go on in that area. Protections are needed. This isn’t something that can’t be worked out, but it does need to be solved.

      There is a plan/vision – BluePrint Plus. If you haven’t seen it, contact me off-line and I’ll make arrangements to get you a copy. A lot of the plan has come to fruition, giving us much of what we’ve seen added to downtown in the last decade.

      But even not knowing where someone comes from – sometimes even with the worst of intentions, a good idea or two can be gleaned. That’s my cautionary note – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – to quote a cliche.

      Again, great conversation – thank you for sharing your thoughts!! This is what we need more of.


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