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.