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Fort Wayne Holds Open Forum for Upcoming Riverfront Development


Photo credit: Harley Link

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Written by: Communicator StaffMay 07, 2014

On March 13 of this year, the city of Fort Wayne held its first public input meeting to discuss upcoming plans to better utilize its rivers.

That meeting was held in the Allen County Library’s auditorium, and attendees piled in until it was standing-room only. Easily over 500 residents, mostly belonging to a middle-aged or older demographic, showed up to hear a presentation and offer suggestions for the project.

In a statement before the meeting, Mayor Tom Henry said “Public input is critical to the success of our riverfront study. This is everyone’s riverfront and the final designs need to reflect the hopes and dreams of our entire community.”

The public input meeting was run by Kinder Baumgardner, President of the SWA Group. The SWA Group branched off from the parent firm Sasaki, Walker and Associates, and works with architecture, urban development and similar projects. After demonstrating successes in Houston, Texas and Greenville, South Carolina, Baumgardner explained that the project would involve more than just beautifying the river.

“The river is the heart of it, but we’re looking to do a lot of things beyond just the river,” Baumgardner said.

The area being examined is roughly 720 acres of land within Fort Wayne, centering on Headwater Park. The project’s goal is to take popular suggestions from local residents and incorporate them in a viable and coherent project.

“It’s one thing to say let’s do something. It’s another thing to say it actually works in this specific place,” Baumgardner said.

Some of the suggestions offered by those in attendance included seasonal festivals, urban housing, performance spaces for local artists and spaces for fishing or routine riverboat rides. There was even talk of relocating the Three Rivers Festival to the developed area or creating a river light display.

To ensure this plan does work, developers are going to carefully examine the existing neighborhoods of each section in the area. The hope is that developments can be made that complement the businesses and buildings already present.

“The downtown plan needs to be a part of this. It’s not just a single project…you have a lot of things happening here.” Baumgardner said.

After taking in suggestions, SWA will analyze the results and host another meeting in July with a list of the most popular and viable developments for residents to pick from. After that, they’ll develop a preliminary plan to accomplish the proposed changes and a final plan should be ready by January 2015.

Story by: Sean Godfroy