The Broadway corridor is becoming a 'destination' downtown

An urban core is more than the sum of its parts—but its parts certainly shape the look and feel of its overall experience. 

According to the City of Fort Wayne, the Summit City is home to several corridors and gateways, which the city invests in "because of their character, urban development patterns, relationship to the surrounding neighborhood, pedestrian-oriented streetscapes, and distinct urban architecture and form." 

The Broadway corridor, which runs through the west side of downtown, is among these gateways to the city center that is poised for growth.

Just ask Taber Olinger, owner of the quirky gift shop Fancy & Staple, at 1111 Broadway.

Over the last several years, she's seen ideas fuel the corridor’s growth, and she doesn’t expect the momentum to stave off any time soon.

“I can say with great certainty that it just keeps getting better and better,” Olinger says. “Fancy & Staple has been here for almost three years now, and I've already seen huge improvements. People are starting to take more pride in ownership, and investors are looking at the future of this area with much optimism.“

Tabor Olinger, owner of Fancy & Staple on Broadway, is excited about the area's present and future.

Some of the newer tenants on Broadway include bakery Sassie Cakes and The Hedge art gallery and print shop. Plans also call for a coffee shop initiated by St. John Lutheran Church at 1006 Broadway. 

The church created a Facebook page called West End Fort Wayne, and in late July, it announced plans to revive "what's believed to have been Fort Wayne's first coffeehouse over 40 years ago," Blue Mountain.

“There is a change happening where more people are looking for a sense of neighborhood and community that some of the residents in the area have enjoyed for years,” the Facebook page says. “They bring new ideas and values."

But while these new business owners, like Olinger, are bullish about the future of the thoroughfare, they're also interested in honoring its rich historic past.

Olinger finds it fascinating that the building for Fancy & Staple dates back to 1880 because if the walls could talk, they’d probably have a lot to say.

“It's probably housed 30 different businesses throughout the years, and the same goes for many of the other buildings in this corridor,” she explains.

Olinger says a common theme on Broadway is intentional development. For the most part, investors and property owners have transformed the inside and outside of their spaces, “while being considerate to (their) history.”

A window display by Sassie Cakes at 1014 Broadway.

This attitude of excitement about the new mixed with respect for the old seems to be contagious. She says the public has been supportive of the concept, and as a result, the Broadway corridor area is becoming more and more appealing to business owners and customers alike.

Annual events like the Broadway Street Stroll help create exposure, too.  

Still, Olinger is not naive in thinking that everyone will welcome the retail investment on Broadway with open arms.

She says it has been challenging getting some residents to come downtown because they are worried about safety or don’t find strolling a corridor as convenient as shopping in the suburbs. 

In her words, “As business owners, we just have to prove to those folks that it's worth their while, that they'll love the experience, and that downtown Fort Wayne has so much to offer.”

Tour the corridor

The 2018 Broadway Street Stroll featured many new businesses in the area. Take the tour for yourself.

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Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a freelance contributor for Input Fort Wayne. A 2007 graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.