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'Historic' Franklin School to be razed, site to become a park

Splash pad among features of $600,000 project

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 12:01 am

It appears Fort Wayne will lose another historic building -- but gain a park.

The city's Board of Works is seeking bids for the demolition of the former Franklin School at 1903 St. Marys Ave., which was built in 1921, held its last class in 1981 and later served as a Marine reserve center and Fort Wayne Police Academy. Historic preservation group ARCH added the vacant neoclassical structure to its annual list of endangered structures in May.

But as soon as next year, work could begin to convert the property into a neighborhood park boasting a splash pad, pavilion, sidewalks and green space, according to Al Moll, the city's parks and recreation director.

"The Park Board passed a resolution last fall that we'd take the property if it was development-ready," said Moll, adding that the new park could be linked to the larger nearby Hamilton Park by improved sidewalks or paths. About $300,000 has already been set aside for the splash pad that had been planned or Hamilton Park, and another $300,000 or so will be needed to complete the project. The city has applied for federal funding for the project, Moll said.

The Board of Works will open demolition bids on Sept. 10. City Council will also review the project in September before demolition activities would begin, spokesman John Perlich said.

Earlier this year, The News-Sentinel reported that many area residents supported turning the property into a park, although some said they hoped a police liaison officer could be stationed there. A paranormal group said it wanted to investigate whether the building was haunted, and ARCH suggested turning the old school into housing or offices. But the building is not in good shape, city officials have said, making renovation financially impractical.

The new park doesn't have a name yet. "But we're open to donations," Moll said.