University of Saint Francis, Chuck and Lisa Surack, and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic announce downtown plans


News conference
Pictured: (left to right) Dr. Lance Richey, Brittany Hall, Lisa Surack, Chuck Surack, Fort Wayne Mayor Sharon Tucker

Through a unified collaboration of the University of Saint Francis, Chuck and Lisa Surack, and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, an exciting new chapter in the development of a vibrant arts district in downtown Fort Wayne has begun.

The collaboration of shared vision and resources will benefit all partners and the community by supporting the continued growth of creative arts while enhancing the quality of life in a region rapidly becoming a center for music. The unique, forward-thinking partnership foresees a bright future for the neighborhood and the city of Fort Wayne with the expansion of this thriving arts corridor.

The collaboration will include a multimillion-dollar renovation to the Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center, 431 W. Berry Street, as it becomes a world-class performance hall, and the relocation of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic’s rehearsal, educational and administrative offices to 826 Ewing Street.

Saint Francis plans to increase its presence downtown through anticipated growth of its nationally recognized Music Technology program, which will remain at 431 W. Berry Street, as well as its Dance program, which expects to expand in a thriving arts environment. The Suracks will spur economic growth around a historic Fort Wayne venue, and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic will establish a permanent home to cultivate its world-class organization. In addition, land currently in use as parking lots is available for the future growth of this arts district.

“We see this as an important step in helping integrate Allen County’s economic development focus for Fort Wayne to be a Top 10 music city, alongside the University of Saint Francis efforts to best meet the evolving needs of our students. This collaboration is a winning scenario for everyone,” Saint Francis President Dr. Lance Richey said. “We expect our Music Technology and Dance programs to grow significantly in the coming years as part of a vital arts community downtown. We are extremely excited about the future developments from the Suracks and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic as they invest in these historic buildings. Saint Francis plans to continue contributing to the enhancement of the downtown corridor and do our part to ensure Fort Wayne’s bright future.”

As a result of the collaboration, Chuck and Lisa Surack will own the Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center, along with the main parking lot and the former Mizpah Shrine building. The Saint Francis Music Technology program will remain in its current home adjacent to the Performing Arts Center. Through this arrangement, Music Technology students will have access to tremendous resources and benefit from opportunities to assist in many facets of a state-of-the-art facility as the Suracks renovate and upgrade the building and increase its public events, further enhancing program growth and opportunities for students.

“Lisa and I are thrilled to invest in another corner of downtown Fort Wayne,” Chuck Surack said. “Our vision is to uphold the building’s historical legacy, build upon the momentum initiated by Saint Francis to help grow downtown while bringing new life and energy, ensuring the building stays an important part of the community.”

Through the generosity of an anonymous benefactor, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic will own the former Saint Francis Business Center/Historic Chamber of Commerce/Woman’s Club building at 826 Ewing Street, which will become the long-desired permanent home for the nationally recognized Philharmonic.

“The Philharmonic is excited about this new opportunity to move into the heart of downtown Fort Wayne. Everyone from our Board of Directors to staff and our musicians embrace this move because a downtown location offers several key advantages, such as enhanced exposure and convenient access for the community,” said Brittany Hall, President and CEO of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. “We’ll have a flexible performance space, and our future administrative home will be under one roof in a wonderful historic building on Ewing Street. By working collaboratively with other arts organizations downtown, the orchestra can expand its reach, foster greater community engagement, and further establish itself as a cornerstone of the city’s cultural landscape.”

In addition to being a tremendous move for the organization and its musicians, this development will also benefit Saint Francis students as the university’s Dance program will continue to operate downtown. Saint Francis Dance will increase its ability to produce dance professionals on par with any other programs throughout the country.

Saint Francis also remains committed as a collaborator from its main campus at 2701 Spring Street. The university is awaiting word on a Lilly Endowment College and Community Collaboration Initiative proposal. The proposal is called the San Damiano Initiative (SDI), a mission-based framework for university engagement in the community surrounding the main campus and the Main Street corridor.

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