George Jackson isn’t a not-in-my-backyard kind of guy.
But the retired biologist isn’t thrilled about the prospect of two shopping developments springing up to the north and south of his Union Chapel Road home.
I can’t say that I like it, but I understand it, Jackson said, referencing other growth on Fort Wayne’s north side. You just hope that it all works out, but whatever happens some people aren’t going to like it.
An estimated 600 residents signed petitions in opposition to Providence Place and The Center at Union Chapel.
Traffic, crime, property values, noise, lighting and signage topped the list of concerns.
Many neighbors say Parkview Health opened the floodgates to growth when it invested $550 million at its north campus. Hotels, office buildings, restaurants and housing additions were expected to mushroom near Parkview Regional Medical Center.
And some have, but nothing as big as this.
An Allen County Plan Commission staff report even alluded to the impact of the shopping centers.
This proposal and the other commercial proposal are the first intensive commercial developments near the new (Union Chapel Road and Interstate 69) interchange, the report stated.
Last month, Dr. Greg Sassmannshausen got the final nod from county commissioners to move forward with Providence Place, a $40 million project, spanning 76,000 square feet on the south side of Union Chapel Road and on the east side of Diebold Road.
The open-air retail complex will feature five additional spaces for stores or restaurants.
Officials hope it will rival Jefferson Pointe. A construction date isn’t set.
There’s not much to say yet, Sassmannshausen said. As time goes along, I’ll be willing to talk more.
Besides Providence Place, developer Tom Rayl and his associates want to establish The Center at Union Chapel as the other shopping complex slated for Union Chapel Road.
Rayl said he couldn’t provide an investment amount, but it is sure to be north of the $40 million planned by Sassmannshausen.
The Center at Union Chapel could include up to 164,000 square feet in retail, a four-story hotel, apartment complex, fitness center and restaurant spread over 42 acres.
In May, questions surrounding The Center at Union Chapel resulted in a public hearing being postponed until August – the second time since April that Rayl asked for more time to discuss the project with residents and Parkview.
He wants to work with neighbors, but at some point it’s time to agree to disagree.
We’re trying to appease the neighborhood, but it does get exhausting, Rayl said. Just when you think you have one thing ironed out, something else comes up they’d like to see changed. When we talked with Parkview officials, they said what we were doing was the kind of things they’d liked to see.
Parkview declined to comment.
The people with Providence Place seem to have really tried to work with us, Heather Williams said. She lives in the Hawthorne Park subdivision.
The other shopping center is little scarier because it’s mixed-use, which in my mind means anything could go there.
Traffic on Union Chapel can easily get claustrophobic, said Sandy Clarke, who has her home up for sale in Hawthorne Park, where most homes sell for $300,000 to $400,000.
I was going to move before all of this, said Clarke, 59, a retired Marine. I don’t like that it’s getting so commercialized out here. I guess you have to move even further out to get away from it all.
Actually, commercial real estate broker David Augustyniak says it should be the other way around.
The reason people move out to rural areas is because they don’t mind driving into town for services like a shopping center, the gym or movie theater, said Augustyniak, Clarke’s brother who’s assisting her in the sale of her Hawthorne Park home. These are high-end neighborhoods and when they move out there, people expect peace and quiet.
Maureen McAvey is a senior fellow with Urban Land Institute, a global research and education organization in Washington, D.C., dedicated to responsible land use.
She said while baby boomers may object to nearby commercial development, Gen-Xers and millennials are fine with it.
They like the convenience, McAvey said. It’s a generational thing. The bottom line is that if the shopping centers are well designed, they shouldn’t be a detriment to the community.