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Shopping complex projects halved

1 developer scuttles Union Chapel plans

Residents living in a north-side Fort Wayne neighborhood got what they wanted – partly.

On Thursday, representatives of The Center at Union Chapel are expected to tell the Allen County Plan Commission they’re backing out of a multimillion-dollar project to build a shopping center complex.

They are scheduled to speak during the panel’s public hearing.

Fort Wayne developer Tom Rayl and his associates hoped to establish a mixed-used development that was to 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 development resulted in a public hearing being postponed until Thursday – the second time since April that Rayl asked for more time to discuss the project with residents and Parkview Health.

Rayl said traffic from Parkview was a key to his project’s success.

The plan coincided with Providence Place, a $40 million shopping center also slated for Union Chapel Road. In June, Dr. Greg Sassmannshausen got the final go-ahead from county commissioners to start his retail project, which will span 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 is to feature five additional spaces for stores or restaurants.

Although Sassmannshausen has been tight-lipped about the development, dissenting neighbors have not, fretting over traffic, crime, property values, noise, lighting and excessive signage.

An estimated 600 residents signed petitions in opposition to Providence Place and The Center at Union Chapel.

Some homeowners said that although they didn’t relish either shopping mall, Sassmannshausen at least showed empathy and appeared to do his best to accommodate their needs.

“He’s putting up trees where he isn’t required to, and things like that go over well,” said a resident, who declined to be named.

Representatives of Providence Place say they want it to rival Jefferson Pointe. A construction date hasn’t been set.

Rayl was unavailable for comment, but in July did voice his frustration in trying to work with residents.

“Just when you think you have one thing ironed out, something else comes up they’d like to see changed,” he said then.

But even a staff report from the Department of Planning Services in Allen County noted that both shopping centers represented “the first intensive commercial developments near the new (Union Chapel Road and Interstate 69) interchange.”

pwyche@jg.net

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