Riverfront development to focus on three areas

Artist's rendering of Lawton Park development

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)  The group hired to complete a study and help with development along Fort Wayne’s rivers has presented its ideas to the public.

At a meeting Wednesday night, consultants from SWA Group revealed the initial concepts that call for a balance of Nature, Recreation, and Development along the downtown riverfront. More public meetings will be held in October and final study results are expected in January 2015.

“It’s important to remember that the ideas presented this evening are just preliminary,” said Pam Holocher, deputy director of community development. “SWA will take what they heard from the public at meetings this evening and tomorrow and further refine their concepts in order to design a riverfront unique to Fort Wayne.”

“We’re impressed with the level of public engagement in Fort Wayne,” said Kinder Baumgardner, principal with SWA Group. “After studying hundreds of public comments and listening to local residents, one theme stands out—the community wants a balance of Nature, Recreation and Development along the downtown riverfront.”

Artist's rendering of riverfront development
Artist’s rendering of riverfront development


In order to provide that balance, SWA Group suggested focusing on three primary areas along the downtown riverfront:

1) Preliminary sketches suggest widening the St. Marys River at Lawton Park and creating a lake-like atmosphere. Lawton Park could be repurposed into an active park with options for an adventure playground, sandy area for volleyball and building sand castles, a possible Ferris wheel, porch swing grove, water features and more. An ecological area would run along Spy Run Creek.

Artist's rendering of Superior St. development.
Artist’s rendering of Superior St. development.

2) Bloomingdale and Guldlin parks, on the west side of the study area, would focus on natural habitat. Relocating the levee in some areas would allow people to get closer to the waterfront; docks and floating platforms could be built. Recreation such as nature walks, canoeing, kayaking and bird watching could be emphasized.

Artist's rendering of promenade near Wells Street Bridge.
Artist’s rendering of promenade near Wells Street Bridge.

3) Riverfront Promenade/Superior St. Development. Consultants suggest using a riverfront promenade to attract retail, commercial and housing development. The promenade would run along the St. Marys and connect Superior Street with Lawton Park by way of pedestrian bridges. Pop-up shops, restaurants, farmers markets and more could be located along the promenade, which would lead to a revitalized Superior Street. The promenade could also connect to Headwaters Junction on the north side of the St. Mary’s. It would incorporate the existing depot and serve as a possible future home for the historic 765 steam locomotive.

“I think my favorite thing was the whole mix of the ideas,” said Nick Brown, one of the attendees of Wednesday’s meeting. “I like the retail, I like the whole nature part.”

“I was pretty amazed at the scope, especially the two lakes that they had projected,” Zack Doctor said.

“They’re looking for a natural landscape,” said Abigail King. “One that we support.”

Another meeting is scheduled for Wednesday from 11 p.m. to 1 p.m. at the Allen County Public Library’s theater.

City officials said once the development starts, it can up to 15 years to complete all projects along the rivers.

Go to www.RiverfrontFW.org to learn more and to provide input.

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