January 10, 2014 - Mayor Tom Henry today proposed investing $3 million in Legacy funds in the University of Saint Francis downtown campus. The Mayor was joined by University President Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF, at the USF Performing Arts Center, one of two downtown buildings that would be renovated with the help of Legacy dollars.
“The University of Saint Francis has already made a significant commitment to the revitalization of downtown Fort Wayne with the purchase of the former Chamber of Commerce Building and the former Scottish Rite,” said Mayor Henry. “The university’s plans to renovate these buildings and fill them with 250 to 300 students will advance educational attainment and the continuing positive momentum in our vibrant and exciting downtown. We’re investing in our future with a strong commitment to education and quality of life."
“A downtown university presence will create cultural activities that attract a diverse creative class, ignite social activity and could lead to the establishment of niche businesses,” said President Kriss. “We haven't developed the downtown campus yet, and already the university’s proprietary programs and events have brought 25,000 people downtown to the USF Performing Arts Center.”
The Higher Education Opportunity Fund was created as part of Legacy Fort Wayne and is intended to provide higher-learning nonprofit institutions up to a $3 million, 3-to-1 match for capital investments. The investments must be made in downtown Fort Wayne or surrounding core neighborhoods. The Opportunity Fund has a limited amount of dollars available and applications are considered as they are submitted.
The university plans to renovate a significant portion of the 120,000 square feet of space. Renovations at the two buildings, 826 Ewing St., the former Chamber building, and 431 W. Berry St., the former Scottish Rite, will cost approximately $12.3 million. The building at 826 Ewing will be home to the Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership and will connect students with local businesses, addressing “brain drain” and creating a pool of talented candidates for the region’s jobs.
The building at 431 W. Berry will house the USF Music Technology and Media Entrepreneurship Training in the Arts (META) programs. It will offer collaborative workspace for students, recording studios, video production facilities, rehearsal space, facilities and offices. The building also houses a 2,000 seat auditorium, which is open for public rental, drawing even more people downtown.
The university estimates that 250 to 300 students will be enrolled in majors based at the downtown campus, with capacity to grow to 500. It’s expected that the work will create 86 construction jobs, eight permanent jobs and bring 23 existing jobs downtown. Pending progress in the fundraising plan, officials hope to start construction in 2014.
The proposal to provide Legacy funding to the University of Saint Francis downtown campus will be introduced to City Council on January 14. Discussion of the proposal is planned for January 21 with possible final passage on January 28.