FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The plan to create Fort Wayne’s first-ever food truck park is underway.
“This will be a chance for people to come and connect and gather,” said TK Kelly, the founder of the park. “[Many] food trucks do nothing for six months out of the year. We’re giving them an opportunity where they can make revenue and impact the community.”
This plan won Kelly $1,000 at a Fort Wayne Soup event at the end of April. The nonprofit hosts quarterly events that present “great ideas.”
“Our board selects four to pitch at the event, and then community members vote on the idea they like the best, and that’s the idea that gets the funding,” said Amber Bouthot, the executive director of Fort Wayne Soup. “It’s a very simple model and it empowers the community to make decisions about what they want to happen.”
The money was raised by the ticket sales to the event and matching sponsorship dollars. Kelly used the $1,000 to hire his attorney.
As far as the vision for the food truck park, Kelly said they’re looking to start out with six trucks, and eventually cap it out at 10. Various lease levels will be offered to each truck.
“So some will come in for a week, some may come in for a month or two months,” said Kelly. “Some may like it so much, and recognize that we’re bringing the audience to them, and they’ll sign on for a year.”
So far Kelly has secured funding for the park’s first of three phases, which is enough to get the park open.
“Phase three would actually have a commissary on site, would actually have a vertical farming container, have some retail on site,” said Kelly. “[It would also] have an open-air pavilion with heaters, fire pits, seating, picnic tables and some parking.”
He basing the layout on other food truck park models throughout the county such as Traverse City, Detriot, Cleveland and Greenville. Each park uses between 16,000 to 20,000 square feet.
Kelly explained that guests at food truck rallies typically spend about 30 to 45 minutes. However, from talking with other owners, people who come to food truck parks tend to spend an hour and a half to two hours.
“So people stay there, spend more time, spend more money,” said Kelly. “The other key thing here is putting this in this part of town, we see that home values will go up, it’ll give opportunities for people in those areas, and most importantly, it’ll give entrepreneurs a chance to go out and make some money.”
Because he’s currently negotiating with the landowner, Kelly was tight-lipped about the park’s precise location. The hope is for a property in the city’s southeast side. However, if that doesn’t work out, he said he’s looking into two other options as well.
His reasoning for wanting the park to be in the city’s southeast side stems from growing up in South Minneapolis.
“My home growing up with my parents is six blocks away from where the George Floyd incident took place. I want to be able to give back,” said Kelly. “We want to impact the community and we feel like what better way? I only know music and food… but we’re going to bring those together and make a difference in the community.”
Bouthot said Fort Wayne Soup’s board was “thrilled” about this location.
“More attention needs to be paid to the southeast quadrant of our city,” said Bouthot. “Not to mention the food deserts that exist down there so this is a great way so I was really excited to see the community come out in support of him.”
Kelly has also secured a local marketing and media company that will announce the park’s name soon. He said so far the idea has generated “a ton” of interest. According to him, the founder of Alto Grado Fire Wood Pizza expressed interest in being in the park.
Kelly also met with the city on Monday to do the park’s initial planning.
The plan is to open the food truck park in May of 2022.