A look back at the evolution of riverfront development

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The countdown for the opening of Fort Wayne’s newest park is underway. After years of discussion and planning, Promenade Park is set to open August 9th. The park is the first phase in Fort Wayne’s river front development and WANE 15 went back to see how long the process took to open Promenade Park.

Fort Wayne’s rivers, St. Joesph, St. Marys and Maumee join together in the heart of downtown. Wanting to rediscover the rivers, residents and city leaders formed Invent Tomorrow Friends of the River in 2000 to help create a strategic plan for the city. Over the next few years city leaders traveled to cities across America looking for ideas and inspiration for Fort Wayne’s riverfront and downtown.

“The take away from all those wonderful trips was that we are not going to just settle for any kind of river front,” Founder of Friends of the River Irene Walters said. “We wanted to be bold and audacious and have wow factors. All those others (we visited) inspired us but we were going to make this authentically our own.

While some residents were looking to the river others were focused on the cities downtown development of Harrison Square. In April of 2007 Fort Wayne City Council approved the project and began downtown’s revitalization.

“Downtown was very sluggish about 12 years ago and so we took a big chance with Harrison Square including the baseball stadium,” Fort Wayne City Councilman John Crawford said. “65 percent of people didn’t want that at the time but that’s when downtown started to come back. It was like a momentum began and the river front was the next big thing.”

In 2011 Mayor Tom Henry created the Legacy Fund. The fund was generated by the lease and sale of the city’s old power utility and was created to help improve Fort Wayne’s quality of life. Part of the fund went to the development of the rivers. After years of planning, designs and meetings, the park will open Friday, August 9th.

“What we see today is that the rivers are really a center piece and a treasure for the quality of life and that quality of place,” Vice President and Founder of Friends of the River Cheri Becker said. “It’s a catalyst. It’s amazing.”

For more information about the Riverfront Fort Wayne click here.

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