City Council picking up Riverfront Development talks after COVID hiatus

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Fort Wayne City Council is one step closer to igniting the next phase of riverfront development. A resolution to discuss details of phase two passed out of committee Tuesday in a winning vote of five to two. It will now be considered for final approval next week.

Paul Spoelhof, the deputy director of planning and policy for the City of Fort Wayne Community Development, spoke to the council on the resolution initiating an amendment of the comprehensive plan, to adopt the goals and policies of the Riverfront Development Implementation Framework.

Councilman Geoff Paddock calls the resolution a blueprint.

“A blueprint to indicate that we do want to move forward with another phase of Riverfront Development,” he said. “What I think City Council will be looking at over the next several weeks is more specifics on what the next phase of Riverfront Development may look like and what direction it may go. We have seen that the building of Promenade Park and improving access to the rivers is very important. It’s important to folks who live here. It’s important to our neighborhoods and to our business community. This is important not only for aesthetics, for recreation and for economic development.”

The Framework builds on recent conceptual planning intended to enhance the value of natural river ecosystems downtown and to capitalize on that value by fostering world-class private development. The Framework recommends specific policies and projects that are designed to expand downtown north of the rivers by creating a riverfront that is equally accessible from surrounding neighborhoods as it is connected to the City’s central business district. Finally, the Framework reflects intentional efforts to cultivate a Riverfront district that is designed to welcome all of Fort Wayne residents and visitors.

The goals, policies and action steps presented in the Framework are organized into three topics of physical improvement: public space, infrastructure and development. The policy recommendations address many issues that are intertwined across the three topics including zoning, street design, public art, resilient infrastructure, river access, and economic and housing development.

Some examples of these recommendations are zoning in the Riverfront District should allow for a mix of river-focused higher density and variety of services; new housing should meet a broad spectrum of demand for urban housing types and price points; preserve and expand visibility and physical access to the river and public space; strategically design public open space to mitigate flood hazards, stormwater runoff, and reduce maintenance costs; and streets should be designed to incorporate sustainable stormwater management practices that promote water quality.

Paddock is happy to see phase two conversation heat back up after a long pause due to the COVID pandemic. He said Tuesday’s information was vague, but more specifics are to come if the final approval passes next Tuesday.

“Basically we will have to have a final vote on next week and that will be the next step to move forward and authorizing the city community development to begin working on more specifics of what plans might be,” he said. “There’ll be a public hearing at some point as there has been in the past with individuals wanting to look at what is out there and what they may want to see in the next phase of Riverfront Development.”

Community Development and design teams have shifted their attention to the second phase of developing public open space along the St. Marys River downtown. The second phase of development includes land west of the historic Wells Street Bridge to Ewing Street, and east of Harrison Street to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge at Clinton Street. During a December 2019 meeting, Community Development representatives shared conceptual and schematic drawings of new docks and trail as well as a new overlook and improved access to the river.

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