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The Journal Gazette

Shopping project clears bar

Planners give nod over neighbors’ traffic fears

– Denise Jackson left the Allen County Plan Commission business meeting on Thursday shaking her head.

Despite hundreds of petitions from her neighbors protesting the addition of two shopping centers, one of the retail projects is on track to proceed.

The Plan Commission approved Providence Place, a $40 million development that would span 76,000 square feet on the south side of Union Chapel Road and on the east side of Diebold Road. The developer of the project, Dr. Greg Sassmannshausen, is a Fort Wayne surgeon at Fort Wayne Orthopedics, which is affiliated with DeKalb Health, Parkview Health and Lutheran Health.

Now that the physician has approval for his primary plan, the county commissioners will have to decide whether to allow a rezoning from agricultural to neighborhood shopping center. The project was to be considered last month, but officials wanted more time to talk with neighbors and Parkview Health.

The hospital system has figured prominently in the area ever since it invested more than $500 million at Parkview Regional Medical Center on the city’s north side. Investors have flocked to the corridor in hopes of capitalizing on what they feel are complementary businesses and services.

The Center at Union Chapel is the other shopping complex slated for Union Chapel Road. Questions surrounding it resulted in last week’s public hearing being postponed until August. It was the second time since April the developer asked for more time.

Jackson said it doesn’t matter.

“I knew that if they approved Providence Place, they’ll approve The Center at Union Chapel,” said the 62-year-old, who lives on Union Chapel Road.

“Traffic is excruciating, and it’s only going to get worse.”

Besides traffic, residents have aired concerns over the potential for crime, noise and decline in property values.

A representative for The Center at Union Chapel said the developer wants to consult with Parkview Health and residents of the Hawthorne Park subdivision.

Besides a shopping center, the multimillion-dollar investment could include a four-story hotel, a fitness center or restaurant spread across 42 acres.

In addition to a primary plan approval, The Center at Union Chapel requires rezoning from agricultural and planned single-family residential to metropolitan shopping center, planned professional and personal services, and planned multiple family.

But Sassmannshausen and his development group, GJHL Properties, will move on. Last week, Parkview Health Chief Operating Officer Rick Henvey submitted a letter in support of Providence Place.

To try to appease neighbors, GJHL Properties offered more buffering and changes to architectural designs.

pwyche@jg.net

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