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The Journal Gazette

Friday, May 10, 2019 1:00 am

Freimann Square proposal OK'd

Arts United has option to buy parcels of land

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne Parks Board on Thursday approved an agreement paving the way for Arts United to buy two parcels that are now part of Freimann Square downtown.

Plans call for expanding the Arts United Center, and officials said this week a wing to the north and west of the building at 300 E. Main St. could be added in the next decade.

The land to be purchased is owned by the city and managed by the Parks and Recreation Department.

Board members unanimously approved an agreement giving Arts United the option to buy the land. It now goes to the City Council.

No plans are yet in place, and Parks Commissioner Justin Shurley said he's confident specific plans will be carefully considered by the city.

“This is just step one,” he said.

The areas to be purchased are just north of the Freimann Square fountains, adjacent to the Arts United Building. The land is just south of a parking lot.

Arts United would buy the swaths for $1,000, according to the agreement. The group has until the end of 2023 to decide whether to make the purchase, though the deadline could be extended to Dec. 31, 2028.

Dan Ross, Arts United vice president of community development, told The Journal Gazette on Tuesday the group hopes to create new classrooms, offices and performing space. Plans shown to the board include expanding the building's lobby area, space for administration, a presentation area and a dining area.

Speakers at a public hearing before the vote Thursday wanted more details on what's planned, but board members stressed nothing has been purchased and no plans are set in stone.

Commissioner Pamela Kelly, who is also an Arts United board member, said the group has agreed to give updates.

“There is incredible commitment to continue to work with the Parks Board,” she said. “(The land) will better serve our community.”

Parks Board President Rick Samek said details will emerge as specific plans are finalized.

“You've got to start somewhere,” he said.

In other business, the board held off on approving a recently completed master plan for Franke Park.

Put together by Indianapolis-based RATIO Architects, the planning document calls for about $75 million in improvements over 10 years.

Under the plan, visitors to the park would see changes to parking areas at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, the creation of a “bike park” in the northern portion of Franke Park and upgraded entrances to the park.

Approval was tabled after Samek questioned whether there should be more time for public input. The plan likely will be discussed at the board's meeting next month.

mleblanc@jg.net