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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
The buildings at 114, center, and 110 W. Columbia St., right, are two of four parcels on The Landing acquired by the Downtown Development Trust.

Trust buys 4 parcels on The Landing

The Journal Gazette

The Downtown Development Trust has acquired four parcels of land on West Columbia Street – an area known as The Landing.

Officials are unsure what will eventually land there.

The nonprofit organization, which was instrumental in pulling together the $71 million downtown Ash Brokerage headquarters project, paid $862,500 for properties with a total assessed value of $899,200.

Mac Parker, the trust’s chairman, on Thursday said the organization is exploring possibilities for the sycamore-lined street, home to restaurants, nightclubs and offices.

“What we’re trying to do is get enough of a mass on Columbia Street to bring in a developer,” he said. “We don’t have anyone in mind to work with right away.”

Economic development officials sometimes have to buy land “significantly ahead of time” to spark an area’s redevelopment, said Parker, who isn’t putting a timeline on the prospective project.

Parker declined to say whether the organization is pursuing additional properties on West Columbia Street, which is between Harrison and Calhoun streets. The acquired lots are 110, 114, 122 and 131 W. Columbia St.

Sales disclosure forms say no changes are planned in the properties’ primary uses. One is a parking lot. Buildings on the other three have been occupied by a string of restaurants and clubs in recent years, including Anjos Restaurant, Cancun Mexican Grill, Vanessa’s Café, El Charrito and The Downtown.

The buildings are now empty except for an office occupied by Patrick Bruggeman, a local developer who owned two of the properties. That office will close soon, Parker said.

Businesses located near the targeted buildings include Flashbacks on the Landing, 118 W. Columbia St.; Red Rok BBQ & Bourbon Lounge, 123 W. Columbia St.; and Columbia Street West, 135 W. Columbia St.

The Landing is a local music haven that, over the years, has been the site of block parties, Mardi Gras festivals and other events.

The street, which borders a former canal that operated in the 1840s and 1850s, has historic significance for the city.

Downtown Development Trust officials work with city economic development officials to decide which projects to pursue, Parker said.

Their decisions are guided by Fort Wayne’s Downtown Blueprint, a plan unveiled by former Mayor Graham Richard in November 2002.

The first steps involved investing in infrastructure, including roads and sidewalks. The work was deemed necessary to attract private investment in downtown.

The blueprint was created after studying elements that helped other cities draw residents and visitors downtown.

Local officials’ priorities include encouraging a grocery, more restaurants and affordable apartments to open downtown. Multiple downtown housing projects are in the works, but Parker believes there’s enough demand to justify converting the upper floors of recently acquired buildings into living space.

Restaurants or retail ventures would likely fill the first-floor spaces, he said.

Because the trust owns the buildings, officials must buy insurance and keep up with utilities and taxes, responsibilities it didn’t have when working on its last project.

When the trust facilitated the Ash Brokerage headquarters deal, it secured options to buy land in the downtown block bordered by Harrison, Wayne, Webster and Berry streets. Trust officials signed the options over to the city, which bought the land.

Trust officials tapped two sources to buy the four parcels on West Columbia Street: a $1 million grant from the city and a community development fund created with federal money.