Planning underway for next phases of riverfront development

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Fort Wayne residents use push pins to mark on a map where they live, work, go to school and hang out. BRIDGETT HERNANDEZ

The city of Fort Wayne is embarking on the next phase of planning for riverfront development, and residents were formally invited to come along for the ride at a public input meeting Jan. 10.

Phase 1 construction of Promenade Park is underway on the south and north banks of the St. Marys River between Harrison Street and the Historic Wells Street Bridge.

Costing nearly $20 million, money comes from $10 million in Legacy funds — the $75 million received by the city from the Light Lease Settlement and Fort Wayne Community Trust funds — along with $5.2 million from the Regional Cities initiatives that’s designed to create quality-of-life projects to retain skilled workers, and the rest from private donations.

In Mayor Tom Henry’s opening remarks at the public input meeting, he announced that Promenade Park will celebrate its completion June 21.

Now, the city is preparing for the next phases of riverfront development, a project that is expected to stretch along the St. Marys River from the Van Buren Street Bridge to the confluence of the three rivers.

Henry emphasized the importance of continuing momentum for the long-term project.

“It’s going to take a few years, and it’s going to take a lot of money — we realize that — but if in fact we are truly going to be the beacon of northeast Indiana, then we have to invest in that. We have no other choice because everyone else is looking to us to be in that leadership position,” he said.

The city has contracted with David Rubin Land Collective, the Philadelphia-based landscape architecture and urban design firm, to draft a master plan in the next 12 months.

The firm’s work won’t focus on the hydrology aspects of the project. Instead, his team of engineers, architects, planners and economists will spend the next year working on a comprehensive riverfront neighborhood master plan, analysis and recommendations for infrastructure to serve new private development and manage the floodway, and schematic designs and construction documents for further public improvements along the rivers’ edges.

The firm’s principal, David Rubin, addressed a packed house at the public input meeting in the Grand Wayne Center’s Anthony Wayne Ballroom.

“Our goal will be to marry the extraordinary assets of public investment that has been made and invite private investment to become partners in that,” he said, emphasizing the importance of drafting a plan that is “responsible to the economics of Fort Wayne.”

Rubin noted several of these assets in his presentation, including the quality of the city’s parks system, the diversity of the community, the low cost of living and the city’s history. He said a successful plan will build upon these assets and create a space that attracts more people and businesses downtown.

“We want to build upon the success of existing retail corridors to create robust, resilient economic activity in the riverfront district and to celebrate what is uniquely Fort Wayne — its history, geography, ecology and culture. We are not striving to erase the DNA; we’re building up on the DNA of Fort Wayne — the thing that makes it unique: all of you,” he said.

Rubin said public input is key to a successful plan. After his presentation, he invited attendees to provide feedback on what they would like to see the master plan include at five interactive stations around the room.

At one station, participants used push pins to mark on a map where they live, work, go to school and hang out.

At another station, participants were asked to write love letters and breakup letters to their hometown. The love letters showed appreciation for the city’s parks, trails, affordability, diversity, sports teams, and arts and culture.

Breakup letters called attention to trash and litter, eyesores around the community, lack of public restrooms, public safety, the need for a grocery store downtown, and the need to make the rivers safer for kayaks and canoes.

Rubin said he plans to host three additional public input forums in the near future. To watch a video of his entire presentation, visit //bit.ly/2CqZ9BP.

Learn more

Check out the Riverfront Educational Series to learn more about the future of riverfront development. The first of the three-part series takes place 6:30-8 p.m. Feb. 11 at Hop River Brewing Company, 1515 N. Harrison St., Fort Wayne. The program is titled “Our Muddy Rivers: Water Quality, Cleanups and More.” All ages are welcome to this free event. For more information, visit riverfrontfw.org.