Change in plans could doom efforts to save old buildings in the way of fast-food restaurants

A possible change in development plans could mean opponents will be powerless to prevent fast-food restaurants from replacing these office buildings. (Photo by Kevin Leininger of The News-Sentinel)

The News-Sentinel’s Jan. 3 report about plans for Subway and Hardees fast-food restaurants at West Rudisill Boulevard and South Calhoun Street set off a firestorm of protest from people hoping to save the mostly vacant office buildings already there, but the effort may have only succeeded in forcing HRE Development to try a new approach.

Because the original plan would have required a waiver from city setback regulations, the Board of Zoning Appeals was to have heard the case Monday. But the developer’s presentation has now been postponed to March 22 and may not happen at all because HRE is reportedly redesigning the project so it complies with setback rules.

If that happens, the project won’t need BZA approval and demolition could proceed unimpeded.

HRE’s Mark Minnick is co-owner of Subway Systems in Fort Wayne, and a Subway currently operates in one of the buildings. As originally designed the project would include a drive-through, greenspace and a landscaped patio area. According to Minnick’s application, “The economics require . . . a Subway-Hardees combo site due to the cost of property, demolition ad construction costs. A newly developed site replacing the old buildings and parking areas will add value to the neighborhood. The current buildings are in disrepair and largely vacant.”

One of the buildings recently suffered water damage when a pipe burst due to cold weather.