One Thing Leads To Another

Local developer Bill Bean sets off a chain reaction of projects in Fort Wayne, making what was once old, new again.
5/6/2017
Jennifer Blomquist
Steve Vorderman & provided
One Thing Leads To Another

It started with the hotel.

“As a developer, when I found out the former Marriott Hotel on the city’s north side was up for sale, I was interested,” says Bill Bean, vice president of Fort Wayne development firm Hanning & Bean, LLC. “It was one of the first Marriotts in the country and with the size and amenities and the prime location, it was very appealing to me.”

By the time the property was acquired, the hotel had lost its Marriott affiliation and was being operated as an independent. “Even though we were able to increase occupancy and revenue significantly it became apparent that a national affiliation with a major hotel chain would be necessary for the facility to reach its potential,” says Bean. After looking at a number of franchises it was decided to go with the Wyndham Hotel Group and a relatively new concept it is rolling out, The Ramada Plaza & Conference Center.

“This is the only Ramada Plaza in the state of Indiana. With 222 guest rooms, it’s the second or third largest number of rooms offered at a local hotel and we have close to 18,000 square feet of conference and meeting rooms. There’s a long list of amenities as well, including outdoor and indoor pools, room service, the Marquee Ballroom, which can accommodate up to 500 people, and two restaurants connected to the hotel’s lobby.”

Both of those restaurants were recently completely renovated. Bean kept the name and casual style of the River Red Steakhouse, but rebranded the former Rum Runners bar as Duesy’s Sports Bar. Renovations to the hotel are ongoing and are expected to take up to eight months to complete.

“The hotel will remain open during the renovations,” says Bean. “We simply have too many commitments to shut it down during the work. This summer, we’ve already booked 40 weddings and a host of smaller meetings and conferences.”

Buying such a large piece of property and breathing new life into every corner of it is a huge and demanding endeavor, but this story doesn’t end there. Bean has set his sights on four other existing Fort Wayne restaurants.

“We recently held the grand reopening of Park Place on Main, which had been the Main Street Bistro and before that, was simply Park Place. I bought out my partner, so I am now the sole owner of the venue. We’ve changed the hours of operation, so it’s open six days a week and we changed the menu and the bar and have created a different sort of ambiance. Our chef is from Joseph Decuis and we also have on staff the gentlemen who helped to open up and design the wine bar at Chops. It’s a great team of experienced professionals.”

Bean says there are also plans to re-engage the restaurant with the neighboring Arts United campus as well as Freimann Square.

This spring, Hanning & Bean announced it will also re-open the Window Garden Café in Indiana Michigan Power Center.

“We may change the name, but actually, with the terrific views from up there, keeping the name Window in it seems appropriate. It will probably be the same concept as it was before it closed years ago, with it being open for breakfast and lunch and then used as an event venue in the evening.”

The other two restaurants that will re-open are Bill’s Bistro and Bar 145. Bean was the original owner of the Bistro years ago before deciding to close it and pursue other business ventures. It had been a 5-star restaurant.

“It’s going to be more of a pub when it opens this summer with a focus on comfort foods and a downtown neighborhood type of feel to it. The bar will be the centerpiece.”

Bar 145 will open with a different name and will focus on what Bean says are the “three B’s”: beers, burgers and barbecue.

“Maybe we’ll call it ‘Triple B,’ “ he laughs.

All of these projects hold iconic value in their own, unique way. Bean says it’s not surprising this journey began with what some people consider to be one of the most iconic structures in town – the hotel. “ I can’t believe how many people when they find out I’m involved in the hotel tell me about their memorable weddings or experiences they had there.”

“There’s a hallway in the hotel that has picture after picture of the famous people who have stayed there over the years: Sonny and Cher, Johnny Cash, Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, and the Osmond Brothers to name just a few. More recent guests have included Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton and even Slash from Guns N Roses. When you walk down that hallway and look at the pictures, you know you are looking at history. We hope to make this place and all of these venues, the hubs of activity they were in the past.”

Ramada Plaza Fort Wayne Hotel and Conference Center

Address: 305 E. Washington Center Rd. Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825

Phone: (260) 484-0411

Website: www.ramada.com/hotels/50097

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