Hazardous materials abatement work will start next week on buildings scheduled for demolition to create the new downtown riverfront Promenade Park. But one historic building could survive if a potential buyer can make plans to move it by Sept. 15.
The Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department's board of park commissioners received that update at their meeting Thursday in Citizens Square.
Construction fencing was installed at the beginning of this week along the affected properties on the south side of the St. Marys River, which are bounded by Superior Street on the south, Harrison Street on the east and the Historic Wells Street Bridge on the west.
It will take about a week to 10 days for crews to complete the abatement work in the buildings on the park site, Steve McDaniel, the parks department's deputy director of asset management, told park board members. Utility crews then will unhook all utility service to the buildings, which include the former Ream Steckbeck Paint and Decorating Centers building and the offices and storage buildings of Cambray & Associates.
The utility work will take about two weeks, and then demolition will begin with the Ream Steckbeck building on the west side of the site and move east to the Cambray buildings, McDaniel said.
Park commissioners did vote to give Parks Director Al Moll the authority to sign an agreement, if one can be worked out, with an entity that approached the parks department about buying and relocating the old, red brick building that is part of the Cambray complex.
The transaction would have to be completed by Sept. 15 for Promenade Park construction to stay on schedule, parks officials said, so they weren't sure the potential buyer could put a deal together that quickly. Parks officials declined to name the potential buyer and said they didn't know how the building would be used if it is relocated.
But parks department staff and park board members voiced support for "recycling" the building if it can be worked out. Relocating it also would save the cost of demolishing it, park board attorney Larry Shine told board members.
The building dates to about 1895 and is identified as the E.M. Baltes & Co. building, according to the 1996 "Fort Wayne Interim Report: Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory."
Fort Wayne city directories from the late 1920s and the 1930s identify the Baltes company as selling building supplies. The Baltes name still is partially visible in signs painted on the north and south sides of the building. By 1950, the building had become the offices of the Asbestos Insulating and Roofing company, with a residence upstairs.
Allen County property record cards for the address show Gregory Cambray owned the building from 2002 until selling it early this year for the development of Promenade Park.
Other riverfront park updates during the park board meeting included:
* The parks department still is waiting for approval from the state of Indiana on three permits it has applied for to do construction work in or along the St. Marys River as part of the Promenade Park project. Moll doesn't expect the slow permit approval process to delay the project.
* Beginning Tuesday, Harrison Street will be closed to traffic from Superior Street to the north side of the bridge over the St. Marys River to allow construction crews to build and complete Promenade Park. The street closure likely will be in effect through November or December of 2018.
* The sculpture Convergence, by artist Linda Howard of Bradenton, Fla., was selected to stand at the main entrance to Promenade Park at Harrison and Superior streets. Howard will be paid $150,000 for creation and delivery of the sculpture, and the parks department will pay for its installation and for adding lights to make it visible at night, said Alec Johnson, a city landscape architect with the parks department.
* Fort Wayne Outfitters and Bike Depot, 1004 Cass St., submitted the only response to the parks department's request for proposals from businesses interested in providing canoe and kayak rental at Promenade Park, said Mark Becker, deputy director of riverfront. The parks department now will finalize an agreement with Fort Wayne Outfitters, whose existing location is just outside the Promenade Park development area.