What would you do with riverfront property?

Let’s say that you were given property that is next to the Rivergreenway system off one of the major gateways (the Wells Street corridor) into the downtown area.  What would you envision for this area?  Bigger picture, what should riverfront development in Fort Wayne look like?  What sort of uses do you visualize?  I’d like to hear your thoughts about this.

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  1. The riverfront area could benefit from the same things that bring people anywhere:
    Case in point, hit Jefferson Pointe on a Friday evening in summer. When there’s music. And drinks available. And restaurants nearby. And shopping close at hand.
    The place is packed, because it’s fun, you see friends, you have something to do, and it can be as expensive as you want it to me — the music if free!

  2. The Wells Street corridor has to be one of the most eclectic and cool places in town. Personally, I would love to open an art gallery with plenty of studio space for local artists to rent and work (something that is seriously lacking in our city). An artistic co-op if you will. If the area ever did start booming, I think it would be important to keep the small business owners in the area happy and in their own stores. In other words, not make it too over-developed to the point when property owners raise rent and business owners can’t afford to operate their established businesses. A focus on locally owned and operated businesses would be cool. I really don’t want to see another Taco bell or Starbucks.

  3. If I was given the property I would be worried about how I was going to pay all the taxes associated with the property and I would be worried that property taxes would be hiked up maybe $70000 right after establishing something “cool” there.

  4. The river is shallow, dirty, often pungent, and just plain unattractive. It’s not like we’re talking about “some great place” to develop. Would you want to sit riverside while eating dinner in July or August?

    • So obviously, you wouldn’t build a restaurant or eating establishment on the property. If you look at the property the question was directed at, I think it sits far enough off the river that your points are negated. The question wasn’t what was wrong with the river or what problems are there, but rather the what kind of development would you envision being built there.

  5. Again, the simple question was, what do you visualize on that property. There is no bigger picture here – no discussion about costs or river conditions or anything else. There are problems inherent with any property/development anywhere. This question was posed not as an exploration of what’s wrong with it or it’s current condition, but rather what could be there.

    I really hate doing this, but only further comments about what could possibly be developed there will be accepted for the remainder.

  6. I believe this property would be great to develop into a “happening” place. The possibilities are quite literally limitless given its location along the Wells Street Corridor. There could be a great place to eat, shops of all kinds, or even an area/regional attraction built on the site. The city has expended great amounts of energy talking about river front development, but has had limited success. With so much emphasis being place on that sort of development, I would hate to see that property developed into a non-revenue generating business, ie not for profit, or government buildings. This site, with its proximity to downtown, is a link to Harrison Square and other downtown features. This truly is a gem that I would hate to see wasted. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, fort wayne. Hall’s did it with the Deck on the river, and it turned out great, not only for them, but proved regardless of the rivers condition, people are drawn to waters edge.

    • Thanks for your comment, Josh! I appreciate it. I agree that people are drawn to waters edge. The very fact that our community was founded on the shores of three rivers speaks volumes to our history and legacy. True, early on the close proximity to water was a necessity, however, in this day and age, there’s still a strong desire to enjoy the water and the beautiful scenes it can create.

  7. Oh, ok. Thanks for explaining what you wanted further. So I’ll read the line above as “What would WE (as a FW area collective) do if we were given property?” In that case I like what Jeremy said above:

    “I think it would be important to keep the small business owners in the area happy and in their own stores. In other words, not make it too over-developed to the point when property owners raise rent and business owners can’t afford to operate their established businesses. A focus on locally owned and operated businesses would be cool.”

  8. It was pretty clear right from the start. I asked, “What would you envision for this area? Bigger picture, what should riverfront development in Fort Wayne look like? What sort of uses do you visualize?” Nothing about a “collective Fort Wayne” or “we”. Nothing about problems in the area, nothing about tax concerns. Clear and simple – visions.

  9. Great discussion! Why is it that people always feel the need to get negative and off trak on blog discussions with their own agendas? Anyway, I would envision some sort of shoping experience that is all outdoors, and yet has an urban fit that would help to create and extend the corridor feel of Wells Street. Thanks for your work on the blog!!!!

  10. After attending the trips to Providence and Chattanooga I believe that we have an exceptional opportunity with our waterfront. Waterfire which is an art, music, fire display that is done in Providence is a messmorizing event. We have the ability to bring this here. Second I believe small storefronts and shops would be nice and add to the economical stability of the Corridor, but I have a larger vision. Chattanooga built an aquarium on a parcel smaller than this and it draws in ove one million visitors a year! Think of what our city could do with that kind of income! The possibilties are endless, we just need to get the foundations and powers to be on board. Pass the word please!

    • An aquarium? I’d never thought of that idea. It would be great! Thank you, Judi!

      I have to say, this is the type of discussion I was hoping for! I get so tired of negativity on blogs – let’s get some positive energy going!!

  11. First off, we would get rid of the term “Downtown”. Downtown makes you think you must stay within certain boundaries or you will fall off the end of Fort Wayne. Regardless of what many think, the center of our city does not lie within the borders of Jefferson/Superior and Broadway/Lafayette. The “Uptown” area flows into the neighborhoods via the Corridors (Arteries) which are the life blood of our city. Everyone entering or leaving our city does so by way of a Corridor.

    With all that said, we would envision the area around Fairmount Place to become an attraction in itself. It could be called “Fairmount Place”, “Wells Street Annex”, “River Square” or whatever. The street would stay in place and would be lined with small prefab business buildings with historic facades. (They would also line the Wells Street frontage.) Parking areas would be to the rear and during the summer could also be home to outside vendors, produce market or such. Some of the businesses might be a Family Pizza/Karaoke Restaurant (like the old Shakey’s Pizza), Art Gallery, Antiques, International Food and Wine Store, maybe even a small Bed and Breakfast. This area could also be base for a Trolley or Tram line which would cruise Wells Street and then over the bridge into the uptown area servicing the other venues available. A Riverboat landing could be placed beside the Wells Street Bridge (Old or New) where visitors could step off to meander around the trails, rent a canoe or bike, visit the Police/Fire Memorial, visit Fairmount Place and shop the Wells Street Corridor, all the while knowing that if they became tired they could catch a Trolley back to where they started.

    We believe that Riverfront Development by the City means just that. It should be something that benefits the city as a whole. The city should keep this area ripe for development which will provide property taxes, payrolls and a destination for citizens and visitors alike. Too much time and money has been spent on the plan to reinvigorate the Wells Corridor to let the “final link” between uptown and Wells slip through the City’s hands.

    • Very well written and much appreciated, Jerry and Linda! Thank you very much!

      The area surrounding this property has so much to offer and the potential to become whatever our visions will allow. I like your idea of a Trolley or Tram line utilizing the historic Wells Street Bridge – and can you imagine it on a clear night with Judi’s lighting in place? Thank you again!

  12. Jery and Linda,
    Wow! I can tell they have been thinking a gret deal about this area. What
    wonderful ideas and imagination to include so many venues on one property that would bring so much to our community. I can see it now with bustling shoppers and diners at dusk being awed when the blue lights on the “Wells Street Bridge” illuminate the skyline and reflect in the water. Then as they head north after a fun evening , they might stop and pay homage at the memorial to all who have gone before us in the line of duty.What a great place we call home, Fort Wayne!

  13. All great ideas! I especially like the aquarium suggestion. I know the market is not great for something like this right now but I always thought it would be a great location for some downtown apartments. Its a great little self sufficient neighborhood. All of the ingredients are already there. You have great restaurants, coffee shops, bike shop and outfitters as well as the food coop right around the corner. Also you are right along the greenway overlooking the St. Mary’s with our downtown skyline in the distance. Its a beautiful setting for that urban/commuter lifestyle that loves the outdoors too!

    • I live a few blocks north on Berry Street, but find it convenient to do some shopping along Wells. It’s a nice walkable corridor, although you do have to keep a steady eye on traffic. Views from a second floor or higher apartment in that area would be wonderful. If you don’t believe me, check out the view from the Law Enforcement/Firefighter’s Memorial of downtown! Thank you for your comment, Tim!

  14. How about a community garden? Seems like a practical and economical use that would benefit the neighborhood. Having fresh (not river) water available on site would assure it’s success. The only question I have, for any proposal, is whether or not the river floods the property, i.e., is it a flood-prone area.

  15. Great ideas from Judi and Jerry & Linda! With the Wells Street bridge lite up with the blue lites, what a beautiful site to cross the river and enjoy our river greenway. Offering river boat rides would be awesome. Getting the history of our Three Rivers is pretty amazing. If we had a trolley or shuttle to ran from different locations, like up and down Wells street, across the river down to the many museums and attractions downtown. There could be maps showing walking distances, so you could decide to walk or ride to a location, then walk or ride to other locations,and get picked up by the trolley to get back to your car. Then you don’t have to drive and park all the time. You could do a lot of site seeing downtown and by the river front. I did this with my kids downtown Chicago and we covered a lot of ground. It was great not to have to figure out how to get there and where to park all the time.

  16. Hi Pat, Thank you for your comment. To answer your question, no, the area was removed from the flood plain when they constructed the dike that runs through the area a few years back. So that would not be a concern with this property.

    Thank you Kay as well! That is a good idea about a map listing walkable distances to various places. There are some existing maps that show the downtown grid, but these give no clue as to how far the distance actually is.

    Keep up the wonderful comments!

  17. First, I agree with the skepticism about property taxes and cost. I think a key to the development of any central area of Fort Wayne is reigning in the taxes to avoid abandoned buildings and vacant lots. That said, taxes are indeed important for maintaining infrastructure, so some balance must be found.

    I completely agree with Cathy. What the spot needs is something that will draw pedestrians to the corridor, and more than that, customers. Perhaps a small pedestrian shopping center. The nearby park would be perfect for art exhibitions that have been suggested (provided the proper permits I suppose).

    Something larger would be great as well. I personally like the idea of an aquarium, but I’m biased. However, it would be very important to fund it through as many private donations and investors as possible. More taxation for funding such a project would just hurt businesses, especially small ones.

    I really like the idea of the trolley, especially one that brings people from farther parking lots down the corridor. The last thing the city needs are more expansive parking lots. Also, keeping the area pedestrian friendly, ie wide walkways, good lighting, and a clean appearance, will encourage people to walk a distance if the walk is worth it. With a bright and safe corridor at dusk, with plenty of other people around, people will be much more eager to walk to get a unique experience.

    I think that capitalizing on the historic nature of the area would be great. Things like the trolley and intricate, beautiful storefronts as well as the bridge would help to give the area a distinct feel. That being said, you don’t want the area to seem “old”, as in tired or outdated. That’s why it needs a feeling of life and energy. A place for live music would be great, perhaps a brick plaza in the center of buildings easily converted to open front stores during good weather. The specifics of the businesses isn’t of ultimate importance, but affordable, casual dining, something that could be eaten outdoors in the plaza, would be great. Think Faneuil Hall in Boston, historic marketplace feel but alive and exciting.

    The river can also be a key commodity. The state of the river isn’t as bad as people often think. For the most part it doesn’t stink, although trash accumulation can be an issue if not properly maintained. I think that the view of the river as a blight can be overcome by businesses like the gas house that are brave enough to challenge the public perception. It’s an important historical aspect to the city, and it is important to get people down to it, or even on it. The river is a relatively untapped resource, and associating the development with the river would provide a unique experience to those who don’t ever really think about it.


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