WARSAW — “I wouldn’t be for it if it was to vacate (the alley). The agreement is full of protection for the city … I do feel bad that the council members here are not for it … My own brother thought it was a good idea,” said George Clemens.
Jeff Grose said “I’ve been really encouraged with the investment, planning and change, it’s a progressive approach for the private sector … It is a unique opportunity to give us more information. … This has been talked about and this actually we can see … I don’t want to look back and keep talking … I like the change and steps we’re taking. It’s a unique trial opportunity — is this what we want or not.”
The comments of Clemens and Grose related to the Urban Retrend Encroachment Agreement. The agreement was brought before the Warsaw Board of Works Friday morning, Aug. 19, for a vote. The agreement passed unanimously 3-0. With this approval the outside dining area, in the alley south of the city hall, can be open for business from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week starting immediately, through Oct. 31.
Dave Gustafson, owner of Urban Retrend LLC, was present and was asked to respond to some of the items discussed at length two weeks ago. Gustafson noted it is a project that benefits his business, but also the community. He stated he had no problems with the concessions in the agreement. “I have a vested interest,” he said, noting he owns the businesses and has apartments above those businesses as well. He also stated the outside dinning will be family dining where food and beverages will be served. The only section that will be for those over the age of 21 will be inside Oak & Alley.
Mayor Joe Thallemer highlighted the 10 provisions of the agreement, among which limits the hours, seasonal use, requirement of a pedestrian walkway, length of the agreement and the city’s right to rescind the agreement with a 30-day notice.
“We had a lot of discussion at the last meeting. This is not a vacation (of an alleyway) and it’s not intended nor will it be a vacation. We addressed a lot of concerns (two weeks ago),” said Thallemer before he opened up the discussion to the floor. He asked only new issues be brought up.
City council members Cindy Dobbins, Mike Klondaris, Ron Shoemaker and Jerry Frush all spoke against the agreement. Unfairness to other merchants, desire to establish an overall plan for such agreements, more police presence in the evening, and access to the city hall, were among the unfavorable reasons.
Thallemer stated weekend noise is an issue for any downtown. “If beefing up police presence, a substation, on foot .. no problem. Maybe it is a good idea.” Thallemer added he did not see the agreement as being unfair.
It was noted this idea has been discussed for close to 2 ½ years with Gustafson the first to come along and request to make the investment.
During other business, members approved the closing of Canal Street Sept. 10 for Family Safety Day and Fort Wayne, Indiana and portion of Main streets for the annual Cubmobile Saturday, Sept. 17. A concert partnership between the parks department and Lake City Media was approved along with travel requests and new hires.