Advocate sees potential

February 15th, 2016

News Coverage:

February 14, 2016

Advocate sees potential

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Ronda Hanning has to smile when her high school-aged daughters go out with friends.

“I love it when my girls say they’re heading downtown,” she said, listing 816 Pint & Slice, Beet Street Juicery and the Hoppy Gnome as among their favorite destinations.

The owner of Hanning & Bean Enterprises Inc., a local commercial and industrial management and development firm, remembers when there wasn’t much for teens to do downtown. There wasn’t much of anything fun for anyone to do. 

Hanning, a Hartford City native, moved to Fort Wayne in 1989 so her former husband could pursue a professional opportunity. Her involvement with the city’s center started almost two decades later. 

Hanning wasn’t sure what she was getting herself into in 2008 when she joined the Downtown Improvement District’s board. “I was among the ranks of those who didn’t really know what the DID was doing,” she said.

The 52-year-old also isn’t sure the board wanted her when they approached her and husband, Bill Bean.

“I think they really wanted my husband, and they got me,” she said. “I could dedicate a little more time and energy to the board than he could.”

Hanning started by researching what other improvement districts nationwide were doing, trying to learn from best practices. As she explored the potential and asked questions during board meetings, the organization’s leadership also became more aware of the possibilities, Hanning said.

During her six years on the board, Hanning noticed the organization began looking beyond day-to-day operations to long-term plans. They tackled a downtown parking study, established annual events and helped create the Downtown Development Trust.

Her firm has continued to invest in the revitalized downtown.

Hanning and Bean bought One Summit Square, now Indiana Michigan Power Center, for $11 million in October 2014. They also have an ownership stake in Main Street Bistro & Martini Lounge at 200 E. Main St. But a plan for them to develop the residential portion of the Ash Skyline Plaza fell through more than a year ago.

Fort Wayne’s biggest challenges can also be considered opportunities, in Hanning’s opinion.

She wants to see the downtown evolve in a unique way that reflects the local community – rather than becoming a pale imitation of another city.

“And that means,” she said, “we have to be creative.”