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Excitement builds over downtown development

February 14th, 2017

By Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

If Fort Wayne were a joint, it would be jumpin’.

Local officials are juggling five significant public/private projects for downtown and near downtown over the next 10 years. They carry price tags ranging from about $35 million to $300 million. 

They are:

The Landing – The one-block section of West Columbia Street is being redeveloped into retail, commercial and residential space in a project now estimated at $34.5 million. Development firm The Model Group plans to lease restaurant and retail space to unique, local tenants. A preliminary timeline calls for a June construction start and occupancy in September 2018.

Downtown arena – The proposed 5,000-seat events center is still in the planning stages. Officials haven’t unveiled architectural renderings or a firm financial package, but the arena’s advocates include the Indiana Pacers, owner of the Mad Ants, the local D-League basketball team. The project is estimated at $85 million and could open in 2018.

Riverfront development – The multiyear, multistage project will focus on public spaces in a park setting. Development would occur on the south and north sides of the St. Marys River between Harrison Street and the historic Wells Street Bridge. Highlights include a promenade, pavilion, central plaza, elevated boardwalk, sculpture, dock and children’s play area. The project is estimated at $100 million. A proposed timeline stretches from this year to 2021.

STEAM park – This is a proposed science, technology, engineering, arts and math education and entertainment complex. The vision includes a saltwater and freshwater aquarium, an IMAX theater and buildings designed for fun educational children’s programming. Estimated cost is $180 million. The time table is 2021-25.

GE campus – Preliminary plans call for retail, commercial, educational and residential components on the 31-acre campus that includes buildings dating back to the late 1800s. The cost has been estimated at $300 million. A 10-year vision presented to the community last year by Greater Fort Wayne Inc. predicted work would commence in 2018 and be completed in 2020.

Eric Doden, Greater Fort Wayne’s CEO, addressed the timing Monday after the official announcement. He doesn’t expect other projects to be pushed back to accommodate the GE campus project, which wasn’t expected to be tackled this soon.

“As long as projects can be done in a fiscally responsible way,” he added.

Cross Street Partners, the firm chosen to redevelop the GE campus, hasn’t finalized financing, but local, state and federal incentives are expected, along with millions in private investment. That’s true of each of the five projects.