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Take me out to the ballgame

By PA

Fort Wayne Reader

2007-01-10


Fort Wayne Mayor Graham Richard is putting on the full court press for a proposed downtown baseball stadium... or using perhaps a better sports metaphor, he’s putting in some pinch hitters.

Recently Mayor Richard presented his vision for the proposed Harrison Square project, a major downtown redevelopment initiative that would include a minor league baseball stadium, a hotel, residential condominiums, and parking garage. The price tag is expected to be around $125-million and would be paid through both private and public dollars. The location for the initial phase of the development would be the area bounded by Jefferson Boulevard and Harrison, Brackenridge and Ewing streets. The City has acquisition options or agreements to acquire the properties that would allow the initial phase of development to occur.

“This is a great opportunity for our community. A major downtown catalyst development will further enhance Fort Wayne’s role as an economic leader in Northeast Indiana and the Midwest region,” said Mayor Richard. “Strengthening the heart of our community will result in new job and business opportunities. Downtown Fort Wayne will be a destination place for more residents and additional visitors.”

The scope of the initial phase of the proposed project would include the following:

A new hotel with at least 300 rooms:
$48 million

A new minor league baseball stadium:
$30 million

60 new residential condominium units:
$12 million (with future phases anticipated to provide an additional 120 units)

30,000 square feet of new street level retail:
$6 million (with future phases anticipated to provide an additional 60,000 square feet)

A 900 space parking garage: $10 million

Hardball Capital, the owner of the Fort Wayne Wizards, has expressed interest in developing the residential condominium and retail components in addition to its involvement with the stadium. The City of Fort Wayne and Hardball Capital are in advanced negotiations on a memorandum of understanding to move those elements of the project forward.

If a new stadium is built downtown, what would happen to Memorial Staduim, you ask? According to city officials, IPFW officials have expressed an interest in the current Memorial Stadium (located next to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum) serving as the home for IPFW sporting and community events.

Now the Mayor’s Office is sending out the troops to sell the concept to community groups and organizations. The city has established a speaker’s bureau, of sorts, that will answer questions about the project complete with artist renderings. One of the most important messages the Mayor wants to communicate: his promise that no property tax dollars will be spent on the project.


CLOSING THE CONTINUUM
For the first time in 20 years, the Allen County Commissioners are ending their policy of meeting in “continuous session,” a practice that was condemned by the local media as well as the state’s public access counselor.

By law, county commissioners are supposed to provide public notice of its meetings. (The only exceptions are meetings held for administrative purposes only.) However, by declaring that they were in continuous session - in esssence claiming that they were always in ong big meeting - Allen County Commissioners were albe to circumvent the meeting notice requirements, drawing the ire of proponents of open government. In fact, in 1998 and 2002, the Indiana Public Access Coordinator ruled that state law does not allow county commissioners to meet in continuous session. The Allen County Commissioners were not swayed.
Until now. Joined by newly elected Commissioner Bill Brown, incumbents Linda Bloom and Nelson Peters not only abandoned the policy of meeting in continuous session, they also announced they will soon release their weekly meeting schedule for all of 2007.

Commissioner Peters said the move was adopted to provide more openness and transparency to Allen County Government.

DAYLIGHT DEBATE
A survey commissioned by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce found that a majority of business owners asked believe the first year observance of statewide Daylight Saving Time has benefited their company.

62% of respondents said the switch to Daylight Saving Time positively impacted their company or organization. 24% said it was too early to tell the effect or didn’t know, while only 13% consider the impact to be negative.
A total of 788 respondents from 77 counties around the state participated in the brief online survey. Nearly all represented organizations with fewer than 100 employees, with 38% having less than 25 workers.

Participants were also asked to identify what benefits their company has experienced since the move to Daylight Saving Time.

The findings:

- easier logistics with suppliers, vendors and customers (63%) ranked as the No. 1 benefit

- less complicated business travel (59%) ranked as the No. 2 benefit

- fewer missed meetings/conference calls (51%) ranked as the No. 3 benefit

“We are glad to see that the business reasons for switching to Daylight Saving Time are in fact taking place as expected,” offered Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar.

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