Ground broken on Phase 1 of riverfront development
By Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette
Construction on Phase 1 of Fort Wayne's downtown riverfront development officially began Thursday.
Surrounded by a large crowd of supporters, elected officials broke ground on the roughly $26 million project on the St. Marys River, which is expected to be complete in 18 months.
“This is something that's going to stand the test of time,” Mayor Tom Henry said. “We've worked very hard over the last decade or so to make Fort Wayne a point of destination and if this doesn't do it, I don't know what will.”
Funding for the project came from a mix of sources, including the city's Legacy Fund, the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority, the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board and a variety of foundations and private donors.
Most recently, PNC Bank donated $250,000 for a new playground on the river's north bank. The 4,500-square-foot park will be named PNC Park in honor of the donation, and is expected to open in spring 2019. Additionally, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. announced Thursday that it had approved $5.1 million in state funding through the Regional Cities Initiative to support the project.
Although this phase of the development is now fully funded, money still needs to be raised for two more planned phases. On July 11, the Fort Wayne City Council will decide whether to increase Allen County's local income tax by 0.15 percent. If approved, part of the expected $9.6 million in additional revenue generated annually will go toward funding future riverfront phases.
City Council President Tom Didier, R-3rd, said he was in awe of the transformation of the riverfront and the progress Fort Wayne has seen in recent years.
“We have the essence of looking at our future and the future of our children and what we're going to be able to give to them because they're going to have this amazing riverfront development that's going to be coming to fruition in less than two years,” Didier said. “You'll see what's going to be here and people will be coming in droves to come down here to this.”
Thursday's groundbreaking was an event decades in the making, former Mayor Win Moses said. During discussions regarding Headwaters Park 35 years ago, there was talk about creating a promenade to complement the development, Moses said.
“I am so proud of Fort Wayne that we've finally got things in place, got people enthused,” Moses said. “This is the pinnacle of Fort Wayne's park development.”