Opinion: City Councilman John Crawford weighs in on riverfront development



Fort Wayne City Councilman John Crawford (R-At-Large), recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Journal Gazette. He has graciously given permission for it to be reprinted here:

Riverfront Development

Hundreds of eager citizens turned out on a snowy night February 4 to hear the results of the Riverfront Development Study that was commissioned to explore riverfront development in Fort Wayne. After the presentation of the master plan, enthusiasm remains extremely high. The Legacy Task Force identified this as the number one priority for Legacy fund investment.

I believe this is a perfect project for public investment. This is what Legacy funds should be used for – big, bold ventures that would not occur without public investment priming the pump. This leads to excitement and energy that attracts private dollars. Riverfront development can be the next big thing in Fort Wayne and expand on the city’s transformation begun with expansion of the Grand Wayne Center, the building of Parkview Field, and the current Ash Brokerage project. This growth enhances economic development throughout the city.

The study correctly concluded that the Promenade is the first phase that should be started to seed additional development. This phase will probably require primarily public funds to proceed. We should move with all deliberate speed on this. Land acquisition is likely required; the city should complete this first step so we can begin to seek bids for construction. Funds to pay for the construction of the Promenade can then be secured from Legacy and other public funds, foundation grants, developers, and donations. Everyone needs to be on board with this initial phase monetarily to get things moving quickly.

Riverfront Fort Wayne needs to have the “WOW” effect on people. We want young people to be impressed with the energy of a growing downtown with many exciting amenities. The quality of place and quality of life are now prime drivers in economic development.

Young professionals with skills for the jobs of the future have opportunities to locate in many cities. If we have a vibrant, dynamic downtown, we increase our chance of attracting them to Fort Wayne. Companies with the jobs of the future can also locate in many places. Today, companies with jobs follow people and locate in cities with the workforce they need.

Cities that provide the fundamentals of good infrastructure, keeping taxes as low as possible, and regulations minimal plus have an attractive place to live will win the race for the future.

But we must do “WOW” with wisdom. When I voted at City Council to proceed with the Harrison and the ball park, it was a difficult decision. That endeavor proved to be key to the momentum we now have downtown. However, many of the contracts and agreements required for those projects could have been crafted better. That experience should guide us in getting riverfront development done with the best value for the citizens.

Let’s move decisively and quickly on riverfront development to keep the enthusiasm and momentum alive. Economic development will follow; in fact it has already begun with expansion of Fort Wayne Outfitters and The Deck at Hall’s Gashouse. The study is complete, the citizens like the plan, so let’s get on with it without delay.


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