Indiana mayors weigh-in on downtown Fort Wayne’s progress

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Some mayors in Indiana said the Summit City is on the right track to have a thriving downtown, but said the improvements can never stop.

NewsChannel 15 spoke with a few mayors Thursday at the 2014 Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT) Annual Conference & Exhibition at the Grand Wayne Convention Center. The event has approximately 700 people made up of elected officials and government employees. Organizations at the event said approximately 200 communities from all corners of the state were represented.

Two mayors who talked the most were the mayors from Goshen and Kokomo.  Both said they make a handful of trips to Fort Wayne each year, and enjoy what the city has to offer.

“The TinCaps’ ballpark and the convention center, both of those bring a lot of activity,” said Allan Kauffman, who has served as the Mayor of Goshen for the last seven years. “There are also the Embassy Theatre. There’s a lot of great things in downtown Fort Wayne.”

Kauffman helped hand out an award to residents in his community Thursday night for their work in the community. Kauffman said the people had taken several historic buildings in downtown, many of which appeared to be unsalvageable, and turned them into a thriving part of the city.

Goshen’s Mayor said their work and several other things combined to improve his community’s downtown life. Another example was the city’s First Fridays. On the first Friday of each month, there is an event that brings large crowds to the downtown area and has helped breathe life into the community.

“It’s creating an emotional attachment between our residents and our community,” said Kauffman, who added that his town took the idea from a town in Pennsylvania, and other Hoosier communities have since borrowed the idea from them. “More and more, you’re hearing people say, I love Goshen or I love Goshen’s downtown.”

Another Hoosier community with its own success story is Kokomo. In 2010, the Howard County community was honored by Indiana Main Street for improvements to downtown. Then in 2011, Kokomo was named the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s Community of the Year.

“A few years ago, all our streets were one way,” Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight told NewsChannel 15. “We converted all of them into two-way streets. We took out our parking meters and we removed 18 stoplights in downtown Kokomo.”

Some of that work is similar to what Fort Wayne is in the process of right now. Fairfield Avenue and Ewing Street were converted into two-way streets as the city continues to work on building a roundabout where those two roads connect with Superior Street.

Fort Wayne is also in the process of having the University of Saint Francis building its downtown campus. Kokomo also has downtown college education and several sports complexes.

“We obviously have our government buildings and our library, but we also have part of Ivy Tech’s campus is downtown, we’re building a new $15-million YMCA, and we have our largest junior high school downtown,” said Goodnight. “We have both a collegiate gym for the University of Indiana-Kokomo and our largest high school gym for Kokomo athletics. Soon we’ll be having baseball, too. Also, our east-west and north-south trails all connect at downtown.”

Both Kauffman and Goodnight complimented Fort Wayne on its progress at and around Parkview Field. Goodnight added that the work for a thriving downtown never stops.

“It really never stops,” said Goodnight. “Somebody in Kokomo asked me, when do you hope to have all this work done, and I said, I hope we never have it done. You want to always continue to improve and reinvest.”

 

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