Recreation tops list of ideas for riverfront development in new survey taken by city

July 11th, 2014

News Coverage:

Recreation tops list of ideas for riverfront development in new survey taken by city

Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2014 11:00 pm

By Peter Ambrose

Many Fort Wayne residents see a future where they would like to enjoy more free time along the city’s three rivers downtown.

That’s according to a recent survey taken by city leaders on riverfront development. Nearly 2,600 people completed a survey online or on paper in May and June, and shared ideas for possible developments. The survey asked questions relating to activities and uses for and around the rivers.

The responses were released on July 10. Respondents answered 10 questions about different proposed uses, and were asked to rank each one on a scale from “Not Important” to “Very Important.”

The most popular ideas called for supporting more recreational activities and natural habitat spaces.

The breakdown of responses to each of those questions show:

- Fifty-eight percent voted recreation on the river as “Very Important” and 30 percent said it was “Important.”

- Fifty-seven percent named recreation off the river as “Very Important,” with 35 percent saying it was “Important.”

- Fifty-two percent felt natural habitats were “Very Important” and 33 percent said it was “Important.”

Other popular ideas included establishing entrepreneur space, a mixed-use commercial/residential development, sitting spaces and winter activities.

Fort Wayne’s deputy director of community development Pam Holocher said the recreation categories include boating and rafting and creation of a pool, a beach area, a playground, a zip-line course, fishing areas or a sports venue along the river banks.

With natural habitats, many residents said they wanted to see the river’s wildlife and indigenous flora and fauna, Holocher said. This idea could possibly lead to the development of a zoo or nature center.

Holocher feels whichever ideas or plans get the green light, the purpose is for the projects to be big, not so much in scale, but in the size of the impact they create for the city

“I think the challenge is to have some very unique venues for recreation,” she said.

Holocher is also pleasantly surprised by the volume of responses to the survey.

The nearly 2,600 responses was well above the 500 to 1,000 responses she initially thought the survey would receive. The figures show how important riverfront is to residents now, she said.

“I think there’s so much interest in what’s happening, and so many people want to provide input in what’s going on,” she said.

Holocher pointed out city leaders are primarily looking at developing along the St. Marys River because of its proximity to downtown, and also along portions of the St. Joseph and Maumee Rivers, at their confluence with the St. Marys.

The survey is part of ongoing efforts by Fort Wayne leaders to formulate a plan for how to incorporate the rivers into downtown development efforts.

The city hired urban design and landscape architecture firm SWA Group in late 2013 to lead a comprehensive study into riverfront development.

As part of that study, officials said the Houston-based consulting agency will take the survey results, as well as public ideas shared through other venues, to put together several riverfront design concepts.

SWA staffers are expected to present their concepts during two public meetings at the Allen County Public Library downtown on Wednesday, July 23, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.; and Thursday, July 24, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

After that, Holocher said the city will conduct more surveys, engage residents on social media and put the SWA Group concepts on display at the Envision Fort Wayne Center downtown at 916. S. Calhoun St.

The firm is expected to complete the overall study by January, 2015.