Friday, January 18, 2008

Biz Mag Looks At Square

Harrison Square: Downtown Fort Wayne to get a new ballpark for the Wizards. Also condos, retail and a hotel.
Link (Indiana Business Magazine)

"The L-shaped, multi-block development will be a home-team success long in planning, says Greg Leatherman, redevelopment director for the city of Fort Wayne.

"It was extremely challenging," he says. "In the last four to five years, we've been working hard to create an environment downtown that is receptive and inviting to private investment. We were planning for growth and development when the Wizards went up for sale."

Approached by a group With interests in both baseball and urban development, "need met opportunity," Leatherman says. Plans took shape, "and here we are today."

A key player--in the project, not on the field is Chris Schoen, now one of the owners of the Wizards and a senior executive at Atlanta-based Hardball Capital, a company that invests in and operates baseball-related businesses. Schoen also owns Atlanta-headquartered Barry Real Estate Companies, which is developing the condominium and retail complex at the site."


""This will be the most innovative minor league stadium in America," says Jim Irwin, project manager for Harrison Square and a principal in Barry Real Estate. "The owners have visited over 60 minor league stadiums and are putting all the best ideas into this one stadium.""


"The five-story, $20 million condo/retail building along Jefferson Boulevard will offer 62 residences and 24,000 square of feet of first-floor retail space. The condos will be a mix of one-bedroom, one-bedroom plus den, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, Irwin says. "We have two target markets: young professionals without children and Baby Boomers who don't want to do any yard work."

The units are not billed as sports condos. "Baseball just happens to be there," Irwin says. "These are unquestionably year-round living.""


"In the end, the time and effort will pay off for Fort Wayne and the investors, Irwin says. "It's taken an enormous amount of sustained effort to get us where we are. We've done our due diligence, and we would not be doing this unless we believed it would work."

But, he says, it couldn't have happened without the city. "The opportunity presented itself, and the city was looking for a private partner who had the skill set to do this. The stars were aligned. The city welcomed us with open arms, and that goes a long way when city business leaders are willing to take a risk with us."

The project is a giant step forward, says John Sampson, president and CEO of Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. "It's very important for communities to invest in themselves. It represents a very strong statement by the city of Fort Wayne to improve and be better."

It may be just the beginning in new developments, suggests Ron Sheets, president of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance. "We're committed to the Harrison Square project both as a catalyst for downtown development and for its potential to enhance the quality of life by bringing additional vitality to the core area of our community.""