FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) A consulting group has recommended building a waterfront promenade as the first phase of riverfront development in Fort Wayne.

“I especially like the promenade,” said Lauren Zuber. “I think it’s a great plan. It’s authentic to Fort Wayne.”

In 2013, the city hired SWA Group from Houston to complete a riverfront study. The consultants revealed their final recommendations at a meeting Wednesday night at the Grand Wayne Center, saying the first phase should involve a waterfront promenade. It could extend along both the south and north banks of the St. Marys River beginning at the Historic Wells Street Bridge and stretching east toward Harrison Street.

“The public has been very involved in this planning process,” said Kinder Baumgardner, SWA Group principal. “We heard time and again from residents that they most wanted to see a promenade that would allow for walking, shopping and dining. This promenade would include terracing and a variety of levels designed to withstand different water levels and conditions.”

In addition to detailed promenade plans, SWA Group provided final recommendations for Lawton, Guldlin and Bloomingdale parks, as well as the area surrounding the confluence. Highlights include:

  • Locating Headwaters Junction, a rail-themed attraction and home to the historic 765 steam locomotive, on the north side of the St. Marys to the east of Wells Street.
  • Expanding Lawton Park into an active adventure area for all ages. Possibilities include a sandy area with water features, a rock climbing wall, improved skate park and a boat dock. A lake-like area could be created by pulling back the shoreline near Lawton.
  • Building pedestrian bridges over the confluence of the three rivers. The bridges would have multi-colored lights and would create what SWA Group calls a “sphere of confluence.”
  • Improving the boat launch, restoring natural habitat and building a new Urban Ecology Center in the Bloomingdale and Guldlin parks area.

“I’m encouraged about the possibilities for our riverfront,” said Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry. “The recommendations will serve as a road map for creating a dynamic downtown riverfront that attracts residents, visitors and private investment. We’ll continue to build on the momentum we’re experiencing in our City as we invest in the future.”

City leaders emphasize that development along the rivers will take place in phases over decades. Public-private partnerships will need to be formed to get started.

“I think tonight what SWA has presented will excite the private sector,” said said Pam Holocher, the City’s Planning & Policy director.

SWA Group will provide a final report to the city in the next several weeks and staff from all City divisions will review the report and develop ways to begin implementation.

“We’ll be creating action steps in three areas: programming, maintenance and development,” said Holocher. “One of the first things we can do is open up views of the downtown riverfront by removing invasive plant species, dead trees, debris and trash. We can also begin by pruning trees and shrubs and working to control erosion.”

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