Wider walkway, streetscaping  among downtown upgrades

Dan Stockman | The Journal Gazette

FORT WAYNE – Traffic along Clinton Street will get a bit tighter, but pedestrians will see a world of difference between Main and Berry streets.

Work began Monday to remove the easternmost lane.

In its place will be a new, wider sidewalk marked by large planters and decorative lighting.

Mayor Tom Henry and others gathered on the fifth-floor parking level of the renovated Anthony Wayne Building on Wednesday to kick off the project.

“This will be a new and dynamic addition to downtown Fort Wayne,” Henry said. “This will really make the entrance into our city much more attractive than it is now.”

The work, to be completed by mid-summer, will vastly improve the streetscape in front of the Anthony Wayne Building at Clinton and Berry and The Journal Gazette Office Building at Clinton and Main, and it will wrap around the buildings onto Main and Berry and improve the alley that runs from Barr Street to Clinton, officials said.

The $265,839 project, approved by the city’s Redevelopment Commission, is being paid for by the tax increment financing district that covers the area. Within that district, the increase in property taxes collected – caused by projects such as the renovation of the Anthony Wayne Building – can be used for infrastructure projects.

Todd Ramsey, a partner at the Anthony Wayne Building’s developer, RCI Development, said the improvements will be a major selling point for tenants, but there were many who doubted that the Indiana Department of Transportation would agree to narrow Clinton Street to four lanes. Clinton is U.S. 27.

“Everyone said they’ll never let you do it,” Ramsey said. “I said, ‘Did anyone ask them?’ (INDOT) said, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea.’ ”

Ramsey said INDOT’s traffic engineers determined the street had more capacity than needed, and closing the easternmost lane will allow the lane next to Friemann Square to become a left-turn only lane for turning eastbound onto Main Street.

Journal Gazette Publisher Julie Inskeep said she’s excited about the project, which will beautify a city block that is home to a beautiful building – which was home to The Journal Gazette newspaper until 1950. The Journal Gazette Office Building has been on the historic register since 1982.

“We’re so thrilled it’s happening,” Inskeep said.

Officials said the project will bring:

•A wider, unimpeded sidewalk that will be raised slightly to provide full access for people with disabilities to more of the Anthony Wayne and The Journal Gazette Office buildings’ storefronts.

•A block-long landscape planter to extend the qualities of the Courthouse Green across the street and to provide a buffer against motor traffic; maintenance will be provided by adjacent property owners.

•Downtown-style sidewalks, with patterning and brick accent strips, improved LED historically styled lights, and street trees along Berry.

•Shorter street crossings on Clinton with improved crosswalk markings. These changes will improve safety and convenience for pedestrians.