The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, May 11, 2022 1:00 am

Pepsi, people and progress

Editorial Board l The Journal Gazette

In the past six days, the websites for Midwest Living and USA Today have featured Fort Wayne as a great place to visit, listing a plethora of activities visitors need to experience – including the riverfront.

Last summer, Promenade Park was one of a dozen developments across America to win the coveted Urban Land Institute's Americas Awards for Excellence.

And in a Greater Fort Wayne Inc.-sponsored survey of site selection, real estate and economic development executives rated the phased build of riverfront development as the city's boldest investment out of nine featured.

This short review is key to the reason the city's Redevelopment Commission agreed to the purchase of the PepsiCo Warehouse site east of North Wells Street.

Buying the property was seemingly inevitable.

PepsiCo's red, white and blue building sticks out like an industrial eyesore next to the park's urban chicness and the cosmopolitan glass-and-steel sleekness of The Riverfront at Promenade Park.

“This site is a critical acquisition for attracting private investment” to maximize the return on public investment in Promenade Park, Jonathan Liest, redevelopment director, told The Journal Gazette.

Even the above-appraisal price paid for both the Pepsi-Co site and Schaab Metal Products on Harrison Street is a sound decision by the city to spur private investment in a sizzling development market.

“PepsiCo,” reports Rosa Salter Rodriguez, “will build and move to a new $19 million warehouse and distribution center on 11 acres on Gulf-stream Drive near Fort Wayne International Airport.”

Ultimately, PepsiCo's weathered edifice just didn't fit the plan

Hopefully, the same won't be said about the people who live in adjacent neighborhoods.

Progress is necessary for a city's survival. Quality of place is an important variable in the calculus of development.

Unfortunately, sometimes the byproduct of urban regeneration is gentrification – a mixed bag of a term that, in this case, is defined as a socioeconomic turnover of a population.

Fort Wayne's renewal has been thoughtful, so we want to presume gentrification is an issue weighed by the city's community developers.

These investments can and should benefit existing residents, not displace them. 

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