Months after bulldozers cleared away the 1920s-era Castle Buildings on Rudisill Boulevard and South Calhoun Street, the familiar yellow brick and parapets are serving Subway and Hardee’s customers in royal style.
When HRE Development’s Mark Minnick, a co-owner of Fort Wayne Subway Systems, filed plans in January with the Fort Wayne Zoning Board to demolish buildings at 116 Rudisill Blvd. and 826 Calhoun St., many people opposed the idea. Replacing the Subway there with the dual restaurant and a drive-through for Hardee’s didn’t sit well with those who saw those changes coming at the cost of history.
However, Minnick said, most of the opponents didn’t live in the neighborhood, where the $2.3 million rebuilt structure has brought 70 jobs. The previous buildings lacked ductwork and had bad foundations, doors and windows, making a return on investment low, he said.
“You could put $1 million in, but you’d get $500,000 out of it,” he said.
HRE owns the land as well as all of the Subway franchise and Minnick and his business partner own 65 percent of the Hardee’s, he said.
The head of the neighborhood association where the new building sits is among the residents satisfied with the outcome.
“Everybody tells you what to do with your property,” said Tom Tiernon, Historic Oakdale Neighborhood Association president.
However, the buildings were not historically designated, and Minnick worked with the neighborhood association and incorporated features that residents wanted, he said. That included a fountain on a patio at the entrance of both restaurants and crenellated parapets similar to the top of a rook chess piece. He also created a plaque posted on an outer wall that included the history of the area and buildings, which once had apartments in them.
The restaurants, which can be accessed from South Calhoun or Rudisill’s westbound lane, started serving customers the morning of Dec. 8.
Originally, plans called for reusing some of the yellow brick for the patio fountain, Minnick said. However, that idea hit a brick wall when thieves stole most of the 1,000 preserved bricks. Despite being several bricks shy, the remaining blocks became incorporated into the façade.
Reusing the bricks wouldn’t have proved to be a major cost savings. It costs about the same to clean old brick than to buy new ones, Minnick said.
Minnick’s business partner, Jake Miller, visited the Rudisill restaurant Dec. 7, hours before a VIP event that included neighbors. While the exterior reflects the past, the inside definitely is 21st century, and it’s what other Subways will look like, he said. Tables near the Subway entrance have plug-ins to charge electronic devices, a flat-screen TV and a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine with numerous drink choices at the touch of a button.
The partners are building other Hardee’s restaurants in the area, with this being their third in Fort Wayne including Lima Road and one currently under construction on Maplecrest Road. They plan one also for the city of Auburn. They’re still looking for two more locations for Fort Wayne, Minnick said.