4 reasons to not bust a gaping hole into a historic theater

Embassy TheatreForget about building a downtown aquarium. Fort Wayne wants to build a suspended, over-the-street, glass-boxed, out-of-town-visitorium.

In an effort to prevent convention goers from ever having to walk on an actual sidewalk, the folks building Harrison Square downtown want to carve a hole into the west side of the historic Embassy Theatre (actually, that side of the building contains the old Indiana Hotel) and build a pedestrian walkway across a two-lane street.

In today’s News-Sentinel, columnist Kevin Leininger applauds the plan:

… the city is considering several incentives in exchange for the Embassy’s willingness to give up most of its third floor for a walkway that would allow visitors to travel indoors from the new hotel at Harrison Street and Jefferson Boulevard, across Harrison though the Indiana Hotel, to the Grand Wayne Convention Center — which is linked to the Embassy by another walkway over Jefferson.

Before we rent the reciprocating saws, let’s consider some possible drawbacks to busting a hole in the side of the Embassy:

  • You’d be busting a hole in the side of the Embassy. You can’t undo this kind of destruction. Will future generations wonder what kinds of dopes we were for saving such a beautiful structure from destruction, only to ram a makeshift shiv into its side? While we’re at it, should we build a walkway from the Lincoln Tower to the courthouse so the lawyers won’t get wet in the rain?
  • You wouldn’t really be helping visitors that much. As visitors walk over two-lane Harrison Street, they’ll be kicking themselves as they realize it would have been faster for them just to use the crosswalk.
  • You’d be using the proximity of the historic Embassy for your own downtown goals. The Embassy doesn’t get any real boost for becoming a conventioneers’ bypass — except for some cash, of course.
  • You’d be telling visitors that there’s nothing interesting about a Fort Wayne sidewalk. Aren’t there going to be shops along Jefferson Boulevard as a part of Harrison Square? Wouldn’t we like visitors to actually walk past them?

The pressure on the Embassy board is tremendous. Kevin again:

If (Embassy) board members zealously protect every last inch of the historic building’s interior and brick-and-terra cotta facade, they risk jeopardizing a project that could bring hundreds of thousands of people downtown every year — potentially benefiting both the theater and prospects for the Indiana Hotel’s redevelopment.

Putting the weight of Harrison Square on a walkway through a historic building is suspicious and unfair. People won’t come to Fort Wayne if they have to cross a street? Don’t people have to cross streets in other, more successful downtowns? Doesn’t the success of our own outdoor Jefferson Pointe prove that people enjoy walking and shopping outside?

Once the concrete cutters touch the side of the Embassy, we can never go back. We must consider some alternatives before we mar the face of downtown’s most precious jewel.

NOTE: Photo credit: The News-Sentinel, crudely Photoshopped by Jon. (Apologies for forgetting this before.)