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Visions for riverfront development become sharper images

October 31st, 2014

News Coverage:

Visions for riverfront development become sharper images

Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2014 1:03 pm | Updated: 1:15 pm, Thu Oct 30, 2014.

By Peter Ambrose
pambrose@kpcmedia.com

Transforming Superior Street into a commercial corridor and turning the Lawton Park area into an entertainment attraction remain the top ideas from a riverfront development study in Fort Wayne.

Members of consulting firm SWA Group led two new public meetings Oct. 29-30 at the Grand Wayne Center downtown to present refined, more detailed concepts as their study matures toward completion.

The current draft of the overall plan incorporates analysis, data and input provided by residents throughout the year.

The result so far: The city should focus on recreational developments in harmony with nature.

"Taking the energy that's happening downtown and at Headwaters (Park) and creating a lot of other destinations in the area is really our goal," said Todd Meyer, a planning practice leader with SWA Group, during the Oct. 29 meeting.

The proposed first phase of the design calls for creating a large, two-level promenade along the north and south banks of the St. Marys River as it parallels Superior Street. The corridor, between Wells Street and Clinton Street, would get a facelift in the form of new mixed-use developments that would feature retail, restaurant and residential space to serve as a gateway to the new pedestrian area.

This aspect was considered a priority by residents.

"That is really what a lot of people, I think, are most interested in seeing," Meyer said. "The level of popularity about something like that on the waterfront has been very loud, and very clear, and very consistent in terms of the public feedback."

The promenade would also feature pedestrian bridges connecting attractions on both sides of the river, the plan shows.

The plan's other key, and perhaps largest, element proposes broadening Lawton Park to create an entertainment zone that extends from the river up to Science Central.

According to concepts Meyer displayed, the area around Science Central could be redeveloped into adventure-style play places for both children and adults. The features would work with the area's natural surroundings instead of paving over them.

A beach could be featured along the riverfront. Fourth Street, between Clinton Street and Spy Run Avenue, would be taken out and replaced with the promenade as it follows the river's north bank and connects to the Superior Street area, the plan shows. Tennessee Avenue, however, would be extended to bisect the proposed Lawton Park ideas.

Those ideas and many others are still a work-in-progress.

The Houston-based SWA Group, which was hired last November, will work through the rest of the year to finalize details and put a solid plan in place by early 2015.

What city leaders choose to do after that will depend on several factors, including the costs to produce the ideas and forming partnerships with the private sector.

"We can't implement everything that's being proposed," Pam Holocher, the Community Development Department's deputy director, said in a statement. "It will be critical to prioritize the elements that are most important to the community."

Some of the ideas could cost millions of dollars and take years to implement.

Residents can learn more about the proposed riverfront development ideas at RiverfrontFW.org.

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