All Around Downtown: Community services, events help development
By Chris Darby | WANE
The city that was once known for saving itself is now reinventing itself.
The landscape of Fort Wayne is changing, especially in the downtown area, where businesses and city services are being improved or being built from scratch.
“Fort Wayne is my home. It’s been my family’s home for more than 100 years,” Mayor Tom Henry said.
“Fort Wayne has so much potential. We’ve got great people that live here, that work here, that help guide industry here. It would be a shame if we didn’t try to push Fort Wayne as far as we could, as far as its potential.”
The many who call Fort Wayne our home town and many who have joined the community, the morale of the community is on the rise and could be described as energetic.
INDIANA MICHIGAN POWER PLAZA
One of the places where that energy is felt is southeast of the Allen County Courthouse, the Indiana Michigan Power Plaza.
The recently renovated community space sits at the base of the city’s tallest building. I&M has agreed to stay at this spot for years to come. Other improvements to the property are expected.
“There are people working very diligently to help those who are less fortunate, that are having a hard time with their lives,” Bill Brown from the Downtown Improvement District said.
One of those groups lending a hand, The Rescue Mission, is working towards opening a new building.
The Mission is raising funds to build a new home at the intersection of East Washington Blvd. and Lafayette Street.
The new facility will triple the amount of space and beds available than compared to their current home on Superior Street. It should open in the spring of 2020.
In the same block, the people at Matthew 25 are celebrating the expansion and face-lift of their clinic.
Just a short distance away on Clinton Street, Fort Wayne Community Schools is reaching out with the New Family and Community Engagement Center.
While more and more buildings are popping up around the downtown area, there are also more and more events being introduced where people can gather and celebrate the community.
“Rock the Plaza is a huge thing… Fright Night… obviously the things going on at Headwaters Park. That’s always been an anchor,” Fort Wayne resident Norman Compton pointed out.
The long-running Three Rivers Festival, German Fest and Greek Fest all continue to set-up shot at Headwaters Park. In fact, there’s something happening at that land along Clinton Street almost every weekend through the year, including new celebrations like the Middle Waves Music Festival set to return this year.
Some of those events put on by the Downtown Improvement District include the street performances of Busker Fest, the sentimental Night of Lights and Lunch on the Plaza.
A new option to getting around and exploring downtown, the bike-share program will also be back this year.
Fort Wayne resident Kris Church said he’s looking forward to the future of downtown. He added, “getting out and being able to do some more things downtown, some more active things. We have a lot of parks around, but it will be nice to be able to come down here and go out and be more active in our own city. I think that’s what everyone wants.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Big events and projects happen all around the area, but it’s all around downtown… the heart of the city, where the most change is happening. It’s where others look first to get an idea of what Fort Wayne is all about.
“Probably the most exciting part of this is the fact for years, Fort Wayne had to go out and try to find people, that might be interested in Fort Wayne,” Henry added. “We tried to entice them with different financial tools and incentives to try to come to Fort Wayne. We’re now in the position where companies are calling us. It’s very unusual. We haven’t experienced anything like that before.”
“We’re beyond saving ourself, we’re reinventing ourself,” Brown stressed. “We’re really carrying on into a whole new brand for downtown Fort Wayne and Fort Wayne as a whole, to move forward in a way that we’re getting national recognition at the same time, striving to be the very best we can be.”
Downtown development in Fort Wayne is an ever-evolving topic. Looking to the future, Henry told NewsChannel 15, plans for two new downtown hotels continue to be laid out. He also mentioned plans for two new office buildings are being discussed.