FORT WAYNE, IN – PTI Ft. Wayne LLC isn’t just developing a 275,000-square-foot shopping center on 32-acres it acquired last year in Fort Wayne. In clearing the site, the retail developer is simultaneously generating several community-conscious projects, despite being the least profitable way to clear it. One such project includes the relocation of an 1890s brick schoolhouse, moving it one-quarter of a mile northeast on Wednesday, March 12 (weather permitting) from Illinois Road to an area along Thomas Road, both sites owned by PTI, as part of what will become Orchard Crossing. In addition, Habitat for Humanitywas allowed to salvage building materials from ten other existing buildings, which doubled as community emergency training exercises before being razed. The schoolhouse is the only existing building being retained. PTI Ft. Wayne is a partnership between affiliates of two Chicago-based firms, Pine Tree Commercial Realty and Inland Real Estate Corporation (NYSE:IRC).
“Saving the schoolhouse will be more expensive than razing it,” says Barry Herring, Pine Tree Commercial Realty principal and founder. “But that’s what we’re doing. We felt it was an interesting part of Fort Wayne’s history and wanted to preserve it for the community.” He says Pine Tree also intends to lease it. “It’s been beautifully renovated and will be a very special place for a stand-alone retailer.” Construction on the shopping center began in late 2007, and signed anchors include Target and the market’s first Gordmans store, both opening in October 2008.
Schoolhouse’s Gem Interior Will Draw New Tenant
The two-room Italianate-style schoolhouse, built in 1892, was decommissioned in 1923 and has since been a bakery, a private home, a church, a cross-stitch store and an antiques shop/high-end beauty salon. PTI Ft. Wayne bought the schoolhouse last year from the shop/salon owner, David Charles Rulka. A Fort Wayne artist, Rulka renovated the schoolhouse in 1993 for his mother, who ran the antiques shop while he managed the salon. The brick schoolhouse still glows in period detail throughout with refinished wainscoting, copper-colored tin ceilings, Victorian-era wall coverings and light fixtures, hardwood oak floors, and imported Italian moldings. “Even the stucco on the walls was done in a deep Old World texture,” says Rulka. To top it off, a staircase to a new upper story and interior oak trim throughout the structure was handcrafted by local Amish artisans. “The whole inside is Victorian eclectic,” he says. “But the wiring, air-conditioning, plumbing and fixtures are all modern,” he says. Rulka’s mother, Ruth V., will continue her antiques business on consignment in other shops and on the Internet, and the salon employees have already started their own salons or continued careers elsewhere.
Moving the Schoolhouse
The 1,835-square-foot, 340-ton schoolhouse is projected to be moved on Wednesday, March 12, with the process beginning about a week earlier. “We’ll begin with cutting down the decorative metal fence that surrounds it,” Herring says. “Then four-foot holes will be knocked into the foundation and on moving day, hydraulic lifts will be used to pull the building up, and it will be tractored over to its new location by remote control.” He said it may take the entire day to make the move. Wolfe House and Building Movers of North Manchester, Ind.., is the contractor hired to move the schoolhouse.
“It’s so wonderful they’re saving that school,” says Deborah Eidson, school historian for Indiana’s Allen County. “Being in historic preservation, it’s nice to see a commercial entity that’s willing to put the time and money into preserving our county’s history.” She says that not all of the county’s remaining 61 schoolhouses see this kind of care. “We have some still sitting in a field deteriorating because no one wants to buy them or renovate them.”
Eidson wrote a book published in 2007 by the Allen County Historical Society featuring the remaining schoolhouses in the county, and it includes this school. “This one is the most elegant renovation of a schoolhouse in the county,” she says. Additionally, the schoolhouse is only one of a handful in the county that was built as a two-room school, dividing the boys and girls, which was then deemed fitting in the Victorian era. “So, I was keeping my eye on it when I heard that a developer bought the property last year.” She didn’t want it to be razed. But when she looked into the matter, it turned out that PTI Ft. Wayne had already taken the initiative to contact the historical society to ascertain the value of the schoolhouse to the community. The value to the community was indeed there. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Other Structures for Community Use Before Razing
The schoolhouse sits on one of 16 total properties that comprise the 32-acre Orchard Crossing site. PTI Ft. Wayne consulted the community on the other existing buildings that could not be kept. These included six homes, an auto supply store, a church, a Sylvan Learning center, and an Islamic center. The Islamic community relocated the latter to another site across the street, Herring says. “Then we invited Habitat for Humanity to come and salvage whatever they could from the other buildings to build new homes for those in need.” PTI Ft. Wayne also invited the local fire department, police department and bomb squad to utilize the buildings for training purposes. “One building was used to conduct tornado drills,” Herring says. “We did our best to give back early to the community while establishing this shopping center. It’s going to be their center, after all. It should feel like theirs from the beginning.”
PTI Ft. Wayne LLC is a joint venture between an affiliate of Pine Tree Commercial Realty LLC and an affiliate of Inland Real Estate Corp.
Pine Tree Commercial Realty LLC is a full-service real estate development company based in Northbrook, Ill., with branch offices in Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Kansas City. Since its founding in 1995 by Principals Barry Herring and Peter Borzak, Pine Tree has acquired and developed more than 56 properties valued at over $500 million nationwide.
Inland Real Estate Corporation (NYSE:IRC), headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., is a self-administered and self-managed publicly traded real estate investment trust (REIT) that currently owns interests in 152 neighborhood, community, power and lifestyle retail centers, and single-tenant properties located primarily in the Midwestern United States, with aggregate leasable space of more than 14 million square feet.
NOTE TO PRESS: If you want to photograph the moving of the schoolhouse, please pre-register with LeRoy Woodfill, General Superintendent for Pine Tree Construction Services LLC, by calling him direct at (260) 459-0230. Attendance may be limited for safety reasons. The move may begin as early as 8:30 a.m.
Also, the date of the move may change due to unexpected weather conditions. Dodier & Company will keep you updated by e-mail, so please keep us updated with your contact info.
Once onsite, your spokesperson for PTI Ft. Wayne will be Bruce Boruszak, Executive Vice President of Development.
Pine Tree Commercial Realty LLC: www.pinetreecommercial.com
PRESS CONTACTS representing Pine Tree Commercial Realty
DODIER & COMPANY
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