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The Journal Gazette

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019 1:00 am

Council lets Arts United pursue property

Group wants to build next door at Freimann Square

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

In a 7-0 vote Tuesday, the Fort Wayne City Council activated an existing option allowing Arts United to buy two parcels of land in Freimann Square downtown.

Arts United plans to expand its campus at 300 E. Main St. by adding a wing to the north and west of the existing building during the coming decade. The land is currently owned by the city and is managed by the Parks and Recreation Department.

“Phase II and Phase III of the project include the expansion of the footprint of the arts building into Freimann Square,” Redevelopment Director Nancy Townsend said. “And so questions were raised about the ability to demonstrate the access to the property and access to get control of the real estate for those future phases.”

John Stafford, an Arts United board member, said the building would likely be a two-story structure housing offices and other space connected to the existing building.

Tuesday's approval simply activates the option to allow Arts United to purchase the property for $500 per tract. The land totals 0.711 acre out of Freimann Square's total acreage of about 4 acres. City Council's approval did not sell the land under consideration.

The option to purchase the land is open until 2023 for the first tract and 2028 for the second. To exercise the options, Arts United will have to provide written notice, complete and have construction plans approved by the city, and have evidence of financing.

“There has to be documentation and demonstration in place that they have the plans, the permits and the funding to complete the project,” Townsend said.

The Parks Board approved the agreement at its meeting earlier this month.

Although he supported the agreement, Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, cautioned that not everyone will be happy with losing a portion of the park, however small.

“There's going to be some people that are going to be upset because you're taking some of this park away,” Didier said.

Stafford said Arts United is looking for a win-win situation.

“Right now, we're the neighbors to the park. We are the most affected by the activity that's going on in the park today,” Stafford said. “It has an impact on the groups that want to use the facility.”

The building placed on the site would be owned by Arts United but would provide access to essential uses like restrooms, which aren't currently available at the park.

Stafford said the goal is to bring activity back to Freimann Square that is beneficial to Arts United and the city.

Councilmen John Crawford, R-at large, and Tom Freistroffer, R-at large, were absent Tuesday.