FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A waterfront promenade will likely get built along the St. Marys River, but how big it will be and how much it will lure people to the rivers remains the question. That’s what city leaders decided after a lengthily discussion Tuesday night at city council.
Council discussed whether or not it should approve $6 million in Legacy funds, which would be the largest amount approved to one project, to a two-year budget plan to spark riverfront development. Legacy funds would cover half of the work, with an additional $3 million coming from a gift from the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne and $3 million more if the city can receive $3 million from the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board (CIB).
“We’re pretty much committed to do this first phase,” said Councilman John Crawford, R-At-large, who said he believed the plan would pass when council votes Tuesday May 26. “It will get the promenade done, one way or another and one size or another. At that point, things will start to happen. Maybe it will be a lot of things or maybe not so much.
“When we did the ballpark, we hoped a lot of things would happen around it and that was the tricky part for me to decide how to vote. I finally decided yes, I thought things would happen. Seven or eight years later, I think it was the right decision, but we didn’t know that when we did it.”
“I think there’s been enough public interest, public pressure, and public participation that transpired,” said deputy mayor Karl Bandemer. “Unless that somehow changes here in the future, there will be public pressure to get this built.”
Ultimately Tuesday night, council decided to push the decision back two weeks. One reason was to give council a chance to get more feedback from the community. Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, wanted to wait was to see what other funding would possibly be available after the initial $12 million was spent.
“Maybe I’ll have some other ideas, but the funding options are somewhat limited,” said Bandemer. “You could go after more CIB money, you could go out for a special bond issue, you could ask the state to write legislation to get us funding, and you could get money from the Regional Cities.”
The Regional Cities program was signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence earlier this month. Applications must be submitted by July 1, which is why council is adamant about making a decision within the next two weeks.
If a funding source can be found going forward, council believes the city will support funding river development.
“Usually people in Fort Wayne say, it’s new, not quite sure what’s going to happen, then we’re against it,” said Crawford. “They’re not that way with this. I think they’re willing to give it a try because if there was ever something that was transformational, which is what Legacy is for, then this is it.”