The historic Bowser pump company buildings in the 1300 block of East Creighton Avenue have been given a temporary reprieve from demolition.
Friday morning, the city allowed City Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th District, who represents southeast Fort Wayne; Donita Mudd, a southeast Fort Wayne resident advocating to save the buildings; and officials from the Indiana Landmarks historic preservation organization to tour the Bowser buildings to assess whether they can be renovated and re-used, a city announcement said. Hines, Mudd and Indiana Landmarks officials then met with Mayor Tom Henry, who agreed to put a temporary hold on the planned demolition of the buildings.
The temporary hold "will allow for Indiana Landmarks to make contact with the McMillen Foundation, the owner of the Bowser buildings, to discuss the possibility and liability of Indiana Landmarks purchasing the buildings or finding a developer," said John Perlich, city public information officer.
"However, it’s our belief that it will be difficult for them to find a developer, and demolition will ultimately be the end result," Perlich said. "Efforts over several years have not led to a developer expressing interest in the properties due to the conditions of the structures."
Mudd and Indiana Landmarks officials were pleased with the meeting, which they and Perlich described as positive.
"I'm pleased we have a chance to work this through to the point where we have something not only for this part of town to be proud of, but the whole city," Mudd said. But she also knows they have a big challenge ahead and a limited amount of time to make it happen.
"We were very pleased with the outcome and the willingness of the mayor to have that conversation, said Paul Hayden, director of Indiana Landmarks' northeast field office in Wabash. He was accompanied by Todd Zeiger, director of Indiana Landmarks' northern regional office in South Bend.
They now hope to meet with McMillen Foundation officials to see if the foundation would be willing to work with Indiana Landmarks to save the buildings. That could involve Indiana Landmarks finding a developer interested in restoring and re-using the buildings or Indiana Landmarks possibly becoming temporary owner while it finds a developer.
Hayden hopes his organization can decide how it wants to proceed within 30 days.
The city had announced Thursday that construction barricades were being moved into place that day for the planned demolition of the Bowser buildings. But the mayor agreed to Friday's building tour and meeting at Hines' request.
The main building, which served as the corporate offices of the S.F. Bowser company, was constructed in 1917. The company was a pioneer in the manufacture of measured fuel pumps, such as gasoline pumps. The property also contains two other buildings.
"We actually were kind of impressed with what we saw," Hayden said of the office building.
It was built to high standards and appears in reasonably good condition, he said.
Mudd previously proposed business uses for the buildings. But after the tour and speaking with Hayden and Zeiger, she said a developer may feel the best fit for property is a mixed-use approach including housing, offices and possibly other commercial use.
The McMillen Foundation asked the city to tear down the buildings, and city officials planned to do so using more than $500,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money. If the foundation used its own money to pay for demolition, it would reduce funds available for its programs, such as Wildcat Baseball League, Mary Tyndall, public information officer for the city's Community Development division, said Thursday.
The demolition plan the city announced Thursday involves salvaging as much of the buildings' contents as possible to reduce demolition costs and the amount of waste sent to a landfill, the city's announcement said. After completion, which could take six months to a year, the McMillen Foundation would donate the property to the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne, which reportedly would use it for recreational activities based at its nearby Renaissance Pointe YMCA.