Batter Up! The Harrison Brings a Bit of Chicago’s Wrigleyville to Ft. Wayne

As Major League Baseball fans know, games at Chicago’s Wrigley Field involve more than just the action on the field and the spectators in the stadium.

Ft. Wayne, Ind.—As Major League Baseball fans know, games at Chicago’s Wrigley Field involve more than just the action on the field and the spectators in the stadium.

Outside Wrigley Field, fans flock to apartment buildings across the street to take in the contest from rooftop perches and party decks, adding immensely to the fun of the game experience, and the vibrancy of the neighborhood known as Wrigleyville.

The folks who built Ft. Wayne’s Parkview Field, home of the Minor League Baseball’s Ft. Wayne TinCaps, a Class-A Midwest League affiliate of the San Diego Padres, paid heed. When the TinCaps take the field for the 2013 season, they’ll be cheered on by residents of The Harrison, a new 44-unit apartment community overlooking Parkview Field. The Harrison’s balconies virtually extend over the stadium’s left field concourse.

The Harrison, developed by New Harrison LLC, is part of Harrison Square, a public-private venture in the downtown district of Indiana’s second largest city, which had its genesis six years ago. Included in the project were Parkview Field, a Courtyard by Marriott hotel and a parking garage, all of which have been operational for years.

“The last part is a residential building, The Harrison, which was originally planned as condominiums,” Kelly Shields, Harrison Square project manager for Ft. Wayne’s Design Collaborative architecture and engineering firm, tells MHN. “Following the economic downturn, the project was switched to apartments.”

The Harrison is nearing completion and will welcome first residents in early February, says Ron Dick, principal in charge of the project, and owner of Design Collaborative.

A mixed-use building, The Harrison features below-grade parking for residents, first-floor retail and second-floor office space to be occupied by a law firm. Second-floor windows will feature a view to the game, and the offices open on a substantial, 25-by-12-foot patio overlooking the field. The third and fourth floors, a mammoth home run’s distance from home plate, will be filled by one- and two-bedroom apartments, with two three-bedroom apartments mixed in, Shields says.

The long delay between the opening of Parkview Field almost four years ago and the imminent completion of The Harrison was filled with hurdles for Design Collaborative.

“The flip from condos to apartments affected us,” Dick says. “We went through many design schemes as we made that transformation. One of the biggest challenges is there is nothing like this in Ft. Wayne. There’s not even a lot of downtown residential. We had to guess how many would want one-bedrooms and how many two-bedrooms, how many would want to have a balcony on the ballpark, how many would not.”

Then there was the issue of views TinCaps fans had come to cherish. “Our worry was that people got so used to seeing the skyline that they would have a problem with The Harrison blocking their views,” Dick says. “But it was just the opposite. They said, ‘It’s made it feel more intimate, and helped complete the skyline.’”

Parkview Field has already brought new life to the central business district, and The Harrison is expected to accelerate the pace, possibly spurring other developers to swing for the fences in downtown Ft. Wayne.

“This is a catalyst project,” Dick says. “It used to be the sidewalks kind of rolled up downtown in the evenings. But there are more restaurants downtown now, there are more events taking place. Success at The Harrison will definitely lead to more development downtown.”

In other words, Ft. Wayne is hoping if they build it, more will come.