AP NEWS

Enclosure to link 2 downtown sites

May 1, 2019

Work will begin soon on a planned walkway to connect the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory to Embassy Theatre, city officials said.

The $560,000 project will provide visitors to both places an enclosed pathway : a luxury many would have welcomed Tuesday, as a groundbreaking ceremony was held inside the conservatory because of cool, rainy weather.

The connector will run from the lobby of the conservatory to the lower level of the adjacent performance venue. Visitors can park in covered parking areas and “access a wide variety of downtown entities without ever venturing outside into inclement weather,” according to a news release.

Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department Director Steve McDaniel said construction could begin within a month. The work could be finished by October, he said.

The conservatory is run by the parks department and saw about 100,000 visitors last year. McDaniel said the facility is on track to see that many again this year.

“With events happening all year long in the conservatory, we wanted to give citizens a way to visit without having to brave the elements, and this project will do that,” he said.

Funding for the project came from public and private sources.

The Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board voted last year to approve spending $250,000 on upgrades to the area near the conservatory. Donors are the AWS Foundation, the Edward M. and Mary McCrea Wilson Foundation, the English Bonter Mitchell Foundation, the Grand Wayne Center, The Journal Gazette Foundation, the Magee-O’Connor Foundation, PNC Charitable Trusts, and the Auer Foundation.

Mayor Tom Henry joined McDaniel and parks board member Justin Shurley to move dirt from large flower pots inside the conservatory at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“The ability to have that kind of connectivity in the city is really important,” Henry said. “They’ll be able to go to all those different destinations in a safe environment.”

The connector has been a wish-list item for the parks department for years, and McDaniel said it would have been impossible without donors.

“We have been anxiously anticipating this moment for many years, and we are so appreciative of the donors and community support to finally make it a reality,” McDaniel said.

mleblanc@jg.net