The Kaizen Center in the former Pizza Hut headquarters in Fort Wayne is open for corporate meetings and business retirement rentals.
Sweetwater Founder and CEO Chuck Surack purchased the 23,000 square foot building located at 7100 W. Jefferson Blvd. on 17 wooded acres in April. Listed at $ 3.9 million, the property sold for $ 2.2 million, said Heather Herron, vice president of corporate communications for Sweetwater Sound, Inc.
Together with Larry Weigand and Weigand Construction, Sweetwater has invested $ 4.5 million to $ 5 million in improvements to the building, built in 1989 and used for many community fundraisers and other events.
“From the start,” said Surack, “our vision has been to keep it as a community asset.”
It has a new circle leading to the gate, removed columns and beams added to the high-ceilinged open entrance known as the Great Hall, increased the free parking space from 30 to 145, created refreshment areas and lounge and added state-of-the-art audio and video equipment for conference rooms and office spaces which will be used by Surack businesses but are available for hire. By using permeable asphalt, which absorbs water, he avoided the felling of trees and made a retention basin unnecessary. The works have modernized the establishment while respecting its past.
âWe have honored the legacy of (Pizza Hut Fort Wayne founder) Dick and Deanna Freeland,â said Surack. âTheir offices remain largely the same. “
Weigand said: âEvery project has some challenges. … When we opened up this main area here, we had to drop some new beams. And the beams weigh 3,000 pounds, so we had to get them through that front door with an electric crane.
A 40-foot beam had to be manually hoisted into place at the bottom, he said.
âWe also completed this project on what Chuck and John (Hopkins, executive vice president and COO) call Sweetwater time,â Weigand said. âWe did it quickly. A lot of people talk about design-build. It was built and the design catches up with it.
It was completed in time for Sweetwater’s meeting on its strategic plan in September.
The conference rooms on the ground floor have a capacity of 80 and 90 people and can be combined using audiovisual technology. They rent $ 300 for a half day and $ 500 for a full day each. A small conference room for 12 is available as a breakout space.
The Great Hall will be rented for $ 500 for a full day. If tenants also want to use the conference room space downstairs, it would cost $ 500 per room, or they can spend $ 1,500 for the Great Hall and all conference rooms downstairs, according to Herron.
Dick Freeland’s office is not currently available for rent. It features a glass duck stage, bar, and seating, and connects to an adjoining conference room and balcony that overlooks the patio and fountain below.
One thing that probably won’t change at the property, according to Surack: the Pizza Hut logo on the ornate doors at the end of the driveway.
Surack explained the name of the center.
âKaizen (ky-ZAHN) is the Japanese term for ‘continuous improvement’,â Surack said. âIt’s a philosophy that I believe in and that we can put into practice every day at Sweetwater and all of the other Sweetwater businesses. “
The Sweet Family of Companies includes online retailer Surack founded in 1979, the Clyde Theater, Sweet Aviation, Longe Optical and SweetCars.