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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Kevin Miller, a sophomore architecture student at Ball State, discusses his winning model during Friday’s presentation at the Performing Arts Center.

Ball State students draw plans for USF site

– The single city block of mostly parking space opposite the former Scottish Rite isn’t much to look at, but University of Saint Francis officials saw the possibilities of what the space could become, thanks to designs from architecture students at Ball State University.

Six students presented their visions for the space surrounded by Fairfield Avenue and Main, Ewing and Berry streets during presentations Friday, many of which included apartments, dorm rooms, retail and green spaces and garage parking.

For about 45 years, Ball State students in the College of Architecture and Planning have produced building projects as entries for a competition sponsored by the Indiana Concrete Masonry Association.

This year, Ball State coordinated with Saint Francis and the Fort Wayne Community Development Division to design a mixed-use space at the site across from the USF Performing Arts Center, formerly the Scottish Rite.

More than 75 students entered the contest. The top finishers were selected to present their projects Friday. Local architects judged the contest.

Students drew inspiration from the surrounding historic buildings, the city’s rivers and Saint Francis’ values for their projects. Some included an underground parking garage, fountains and grassy areas. Ball State sophomore Kevin Miller’s project was chosen as the first-place winner. His design included a skywalk from the Performing Arts Center to his four-story, mixed-use building across the street, an element unique to his design.

While the projects do not end in actual construction, they provide possibilities the university could consider.

John Urbahns, director of community development with the city, said the space provided a blank canvas for students and their designs showed Saint Francis officials higher possibilities for what the space could become.

“It was just a very opportune time to partner the two together,” he said.

The University of Saint Francis has no immediate plans for the space and is still negotiating a sale price for the parking lot and the Mizpah Shrine Building that connects to the Performing Arts Center, said Rich Bienz, vice president for finance and operations at the university.

Saint Francis also recently bought the Chamber of Commerce Building at 826 Ewing St.