Sunday, August 26, 2007

North River Development? - YES!

After a presentation by consultant Gianni Longo on Thursday, members of the North River Task Force voted unanimously to endorse redevelopment plans for the area. The plans include a mix of single-family homes,townhouses,apartments,retail shops and restaurants centered along an inviting pedestrian boulevard with a waterfront plaza descending down to river landings. In addition, a regional attraction would be planned for the north end of the site. Suggestions have included a water park or aquarium. Since we don't already have either of these attractions currently in place locally, that will save us from ONE argument. . .

I'm excited about this plan! Much in the same manner as Harrison Square, it takes a part of the city that has been forgotten and written off for far too long and breathes new life into it. Now,I know all of the arguments pro and con regarding HS, but let's put that aside all of the monetary concerns for the moment and focus on the possibilities . . .I "get" the concern regarding the TIF designations, but come on, we're talking about a liquor store, a day-care facility and lots of residential rentals. Not alot of tax revenue to be had from the status quo in the HS area, and local history has shown no reason to expect anything new to show up in that section of downtown without some prodding. Sometimes you just have to clear the fields and sow a new crop. If that new crop fails, then you try another and another after that if need be, until you find what produces results.

Coming on the heels of Harrison Square, the North River Development is a perfect second step. It addresses another of the red-headed step-children of Fort Wayne development - our rivers. Critics will decry that "the rivers are dirty" or "nobody cares about access to rivers here". Alot of local citizens would take issue with that sentiment, Mike Harvey and Mitch Harper and myself, just to name a few.

We can thank Geoff Paddock and many other individuals for opening the door to our even having this discussion by creating Headwaters Park. I can still recall walking through "the thumb" as well as enjoying the Rivergreenway trails and being astounded at discovering areas of Fort Wayne that I had never seen, despite living here nearly all of my life! In the case of the trails, it was wild and wooley but amazing - in the case of Headwaters, I saw walkways and connections to the rivers and wondered "why haven't we done this before and what more can we do to re-connect"?

I keep seeing new signs of life in the core of this city and I feel passion and pride and hope. . .I recall growing up here in the 1970's - the boarded-up buildings and empty spaces downtown. If you weren't here then, you have NO idea how far we have come! Fort Wayne has always limped along in the slow lane, but has made slow and steady progress towards joining the rest of the world. As I travel to other cities such as Indianapolis and Chicago and experience their successes at downtown revitalization, I always return home with an eye to to the future and a sense of optimism. . .

Downtown Fort Wayne has a reputation for rolling up it's sidewalks after 5 PM and on the weekends. I'm behind anyone who wishes to challenge that train of thought. My wife and I dined at the Summit Club last night, and even from that lofty view we could see the activity going on at J.K. O'Donnell's well into a Friday evening. I salute the entrepreneurs behind that establishment, and welcome the forward-thinkers of tomorrow in their quest to rebuild the heart of our fine city.

15 comments:

The Most Dangerous Blogger! said...

I too believe there is hope for Fort Wayne and along with that the downtown area.
I do not support the Harrison Project as it now stands - I believe it lacks substance and a proper anchor to see it being a success year round.
I am for building and developing Fort Wayne and downtown - just not the empty clitter of the Harrison project.
We need something different that will bring people year round, not just part of the year.

Charlotte A. Weybright said...

Good grief John. I thought I was on the wrong blog for a minute. I then remembered that the blog has other contributors. I actually thought Jeff had done a u-turn.

Seriously, I would like to see river improvement. I don't like the word "development" when it comes to our rivers (or any other rivers) because it usually means destroying the river environment by stripping it of foliage.

Look at Dayton and a few of the other cities which have undertaken river "development." Dayton has a large canal that runs through it - pretty much devoid of trees and vegetation.

We have very little view of our rivers anymore thanks to the continuous construction of walls and levees. Thieme Drive is about to fall victim to the same fate. Although the wall won't be an 8-foot monstrosity, it will still require destruction of the drive's environment and hide the river from view.

I have been fighting a wall for almost three years now, and it looks like I am on the losing end although I will continue to fight.

I would like to see river improvement as envisioned by George Kessler and Theodore Thieme. The City should preserve as much of the natural river environment as possible instead of tearing down and constructing buildings at the river's edge (which will flood, by the way).

John Good said...

Danger Blogger - I'll grant you that the stadium may not be in year-round usage(although there ARE some ideas. . .), but the retail, hotel and housing will be.

With North Shore, there are more possibilities for year-round and/or enclosed features - ie an indoor waterpark, etc. . .

Charlotte - Sorry to startle you!! I appreciate the clarification and I understand your concern. I agree that MOST of the riverfront should likely be "improved", but there definitely needs to also be some "development" right down to the edge. Possibly limited to the headwaters area, but there could be other "outposts" of some sort as well.

Could you imagine say a tavern with a terrace near Quimby Village, or up the St.Joe River somewhere, "water taxis" between these destinations, and the riverfront in between "restored" and left natural?

Charlotte A. Weybright said...

I hope that if development and/or improvement is done, it turns out like Nick's Riverside Lounge.

Hall's left a lot of the river foliage and trees. In particular, the tree next to the gazebo on the west end is magnificent.

The drawings at the City's website show some type of frontage at the river edge of the North River project where citizens can go down to a pier and take the rides you are describing. I think that would be a great compromise because it does limit the frontage to the area near the project.

fairplaybeach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fairplaybeach said...

Yeah, the River City Sports Complex can be a river destination as well. It's the last stop on the Maumee... Challenging putting on real greens and beach volleyball so far... That is unless property taxes, or something else, swallow us whole...

I want to have a yearly river festival starting next year as well. The Mayfest used to be held there.

John Good said...

Charlotte - I think that we can indeed have it all with proper planning and implementation.

Mike - Your site came to mind when I typed that. Is that the site that used to be the old municipal beach way back when?

fairplaybeach said...

Thanks. I don't know. That sounds familiar. I didn't know about the Mayfest until I asked the River City Links owners about the rock on a pedestal behind the golf course. I'll have to ask Dave Anglin, the landlord at River City, about that.

Dave also mentioned he may put a dock closer to the beach courts at River City. I'm sure he'd be looking to do more but $100 a day in property taxes can limit what a guy can do on all fronts.

Basically, I'll do, and am doing, whatever it takes to help Dave, and if that means promoting the river to give us name recognition and survival then so be it...

And I agree with what Charlotte said about the greenness around the river. It almost seemed like I wasn't in Fort Wayne at times zipping up and down with Eric of River City on the speed boat the other day. It can be a mini-getaway right in our midst.

Jeff Pruitt said...

Here's the real issue - nobody, and I mean nobody, is against new development. The problem is the city thinks they need to stick their nose in and prod the private sector along every step of the way.

How often have we heard that HS was going to be a catalyst project? Fine - let it be. There's absolutely no reason to purchase this land for what amounts to no reason. If and when the private sector decides this land is worthy then somebody will buy it and attempt to do something with it. We don't need to pay a bunch of worthless consultants to tell us what to do.

By the way, of all the people that went to these public meetings on what to do with the property - how many of YOU are will to put your money where your mouth is and invest in the project?

That's what I thought. So what we have here is a convenient, yet worthless, political process to convince people they really do have a say - guess what? You don't and you shouldn't.

I'm sick and tired of this mayor and his ilk telling us how great this and that development would be if only us common folk understood what was going on. We get it and we don't like it. If it's such a great idea then Graham Richard can invest the $4+ Million his damn self to build whatever money-losing project his heard contents. Until then - well forget it...

fairplaybeach said...

With what little money I have I'm willing to invest in River City. Dave Anglin, my landlord there, has already "invested" heavily in city "development" via property taxes and has little to show in getting anything back out of it... but still not giving up. Whether or not a North River Project really helps is unclear but, for me, I have to react to that potential...

fairplaybeach said...

Whether North River happens or not we're into things having to do with the rivers... however little or big it turns out to be. We will know all the dangerous areas...

Jeff Pruitt said...

fpb,

That's great you're investing in riverfront property. I'm sure more people will eventually follow your lead. If the city wants to do something then they can clean the rivers up - that would be a good start...

Andrew Kaduk said...

The city needs to first stop encouraging the urban sprawl that's happening now. Only then will people (without governmental intrusion) clean up the messes that have been left downtown and elsewhere. As long as you can leave blight behind, allow condemned buildings to stand etc., people will continue to flee to the edges of town to the seas of beige, vinyl-sided homes that litter Allen County's waistline.

fairplaybeach said...

My investment would be small... just to put in more beach courts at River City. But thanks... That brings up my point that I brought up on Change Fort Wayne once... that you have a bunch of guys there that seem to want things to change but it seems like they want people to change things for them rather than to try to change themselves, or change things for themselves...

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