1980-1989: DECADE OF ECONOMIC TURMOIL & TRANSITION


Midtowne development survived several changes


By Shannon Lohrmann of The News-Sentinel

Jordan Lebamoff can tick off several reasons why he enjoys living in one of the condominiums at Midtowne Crossing, at Wayne and Calhoun streets.

He really likes to walk to work. If there is leftover Chinese takeout, he can run home at lunch and microwave it there. He can quickly drive to almost any other neighborhood in town from his central location.

But, most of all, the idea for developing downtown Fort Wayne was first forming when his father was mayor in the 1970s.

"He saw a need for a rejuvenating environment downtown that would offset the flight to the suburbs," Lebamoff said of his father, Ivan Lebamoff. "There is a lot of history here for me, knowing that it was started by my father."

The downtown revitalization project was a long time coming, however, and the final product looks nothing like the original plans.

The Midtowne Crossing project ended in 1990 with only 104 condominiums, all of which are now filled and privately owned. At any time, from three to six of the units are up for sale, said Diane Hadley, property manager for the Midtowne Crossing Homeowners Association.

That is a far cry from the Courtyards development that was initiated in 1985 when Win Moses Jr. was mayor.

"It was a particularly difficult project," Moses said.

His administration planned a 70,000-square-foot project — the Courtyards — that would be completed in 1987 at a cost of $20 million. An open-air mall and offices, topped by a glass atrium, would attract residents to the downtown, Moses predicted.

It just went downhill from there. From falling walls to excess bird droppings, and from difficulty hiring developers to eventually firing the architect, the development was fraught with problems.

After shelling out $226,890 to Godine & Stunda, the city fired the Baltimore firm for failure to find suitable financing and enough tenants for the mall. In October 1986, the city fired award-winning architect Eric R. Kuhne for being incompatible with changes being made to his design; the city had already paid him $660,000. The year before, Kuhne's original design for the Courtyards was honored by Progressive Architecture magazine as one of the best designs of its type in the nation.

The project's focus switched to housing the next fall when the city approved Sheila Kennedy, president of Kennedy Development Services, Indianapolis, as the third developer.

The name of the building was changed to Midtowne Crossing, which would include 48 apartments and 60 condominiums. In the end, Kennedy built only condos.

Jordan Lebamoff, who moved into his condo in 1992, plans to stay.

"It was and is the only location of its kind downtown," he said. "You can't beat the view."

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