An historic location that launched the city of Fort Wayne is now transformed into a booming block designed to attract locals and destination travelers alike, anchored by a stylish new hotel.
Many new businesses have opened during the past year at The Landing, located on one city block of Columbia Street between Calhoun and Harrison streets.
“Our community made a concentrated effort to buy the whole block and renovate it all at once, to attract the businesses that are here today,” explains Kristen Guthrie, vice president of marketing at Visit Fort Wayne. “It’s a very dramatic change. We’ve renovated historical spaces and added new buildings in an effort to honor our history while making the area appealing to people today.”
The area was neglected for a long time but has been given new life, Guthrie explains.
“As people gravitated to the outdoors during the pandemic, they learned to love it and the neighboring Promenade Park, and they want to continue to enjoy all the outside opportunities they can. People can enjoy a coffee, a cocktail, fine dining, music, do some shopping, meet friends, attend an event. It’s just a great place for people to gather and it’s always full of life.”
The biggest news coming out of the newly developed area is the recent opening of The Bradley Hotel. The hotel is a collaboration between Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, who in 1982 co-founded the women’s fashion label Vera Bradley (named for her mother) with Patricia R. Miller in Fort Wayne, and Provenance Hotels, which specializes in independent hotels that reflect the character of the cities where they’re located.
Baekgaard’s gift for design and hospitality is evident in the stylish, comfortable and welcoming hotel that is uniquely Fort Wayne, with local art decorating every room and the common areas, says Guthrie.
The 124-room hotel has nine specialty suites, each named for an Indiana city, a rotating art gallery, a restaurant and a rooftop bar. Arbor Restaurant, on the ground floor, specializes in modern American fare, with an emphasis on homecooked favorites. Birdie’s, a nickname given to Baekgaard by a grandchild, is a rooftop bar with a central fireplace and outdoor terrace overlooking the downtown.
Rental space in the hotel includes a spot for Kilwin’s, famous for chocolates, fudge and ice cream.
Other businesses on Columbia Street include the city’s newest brewery, Landing Beer Company, which offers something for all ages, including craft beers, barbecue and a kid’s menu. There’s also Utopian Coffee, boutiques, and international cuisine such as tacos from Mercado, Asian fusion foods at Nawa, wood-fired pizza from Alto Grado, and Tolon, a farm-to-table restaurant.
The Bison is one of many landmark murals in the city and welcomes visitors to The Landing. These murals are contributing to Fort Wayne’s growing reputation as a hub for artistic expression.
The Landing is also within walking distance of many other local attractions, such as the Arts Campus and Promenade Park, with its skyline views, riverfront activities, kayak rental, music, brews and a water fountain playground for kids at Trubble Riverside Café and Tap. The latter is a pet-friendly patio with water bowls, beds, and homemade treats for dogs.
In the 1800s, Fort Wayne was nicknamed “The Summit City” because of its location at the highest point where canals were used to transport goods. Traders landed along the downtown streets of Canal and Columbia, hence the moniker “The Landing.”
HostThemHere.com gives local residents all the tools they need to show Hoosier hospitality to their guests, with information on venues, hotels, restaurants, businesses, activities and tips for planning getaways, says Guthrie.
“The site is a collection of resources that equip you to be a perfect host and roll out the red carpet for guests. Fort Wayne residents are looking forward to hosting their family and friends, who haven’t been able to get together for quite some time.” ❚