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‘Riverfront core’ districts floated at forum in Fort Wayne

March 21st, 2019

By Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

With the philosophy that it's important to listen to residents so public projects have input from the public, the company helping Fort Wayne plan the next phases of riverfront development hosted an open meeting to solicit ideas Thursday night at North Side High School.

Attended by more than 120 people, the consultants outlined ways to conceptualize the next two phases of riverfront development.

The first phase of the project, including a nearly finished performance pavilion, is scheduled to open June 21.   

Consultant David Rubin of the David Rubin Land Collective of Philadelphia said little about what might be part of those next phases.

But he did say they would start concurrently this summer after the opening.

The second phase would likely have schematics by around that time, he said, while the third phase would start with conceptualizing.

For the next phases, “Our end goal is return on investment, ... where private dollars are engaged in the city and its vision,” Rubin said. 

Among recommendations for that investment, Rubin said the addition of 20,000 to 30,000 square feet of grocery and pharmacy space has been identified as a “doable” goal. Residents report they leave the downtown area to shop for necessities, he said.

Another achievable option would be three to five destination food options, with casual, ethnic and specialty foods, Rubin said.

And, even with the development of Electric Works just south of downtown, demand exists for office space for smaller tenants, including, sometimes, a light manufacturing or “maker” element, he said.

Interest also exists for urban home ownership, an option that either does not exist or is not at accessible price points, Rubin said.

The presentation conceptualized the city as a series of districts, such as the downtown arts district, or corridors, such as Wells Street and Calhoun Street, that would have the rivers as a central element.

The consultants foresee the creation of several “riverfront core” hubs – not just Promenade Park at Superior and Harrison streets. Other hubs would be a Bloomingdale/Guldin Park hub, a Headwaters Park hub and a Confluence hub near the water treatment plant and the juncture of the three rivers.

Several residents said they came to the presentation with specific interests in mind.

“My favorite thing that might come out of this is I'd like to see (locomotive) No. 765 and Headwaters Junction,” said Pete Prowant of Fort Wayne.

Prowant was referring to the idea of a steam railroad attraction on the North River property along North Clinton Street across from Science Central. City officials recently said that area is being folded into Rubin's study.

“We have to make sure we don't just function for five months out of the year. It has to be year-round to be an attraction,” Prowant added. 

Dan Wire, who helped bring the canal boat Sweet Breeze to Fort Wayne and has been involved in watershed issues for several years, said he appreciated that Rubin expanded the riverfront focus beyond downtown.

“I liked the thoroughness of leaving no stone unturned,” he said after the presentation. “They're very earnest in making it (the riverfront's impact) more than the downtown, getting out to neighborhoods.”

Rubin said flexibility and adaptability of spaces should be built into upcoming development efforts to cope with inevitable economic ups and downs.

“Our role is to design a framework,” he said. “It's not so much a grand master plan.”

Categories Quality of Life