garish grandiose cluttered paved over monstrosity..
special interest pork barrel project for the HALLS FAMILY RIVERFRONT OUTFITTERS..
seems the momentum is grinding to a halt- cooler heads prevail; when we start asking how much cash is this going to cost the taxpayers..? and how much cash is going to be private sector investor capitalist financing?
no bucks no buck rogers..
Posted on Thu. Jun. 04, 2015 - 12:01 am EDT
Riverfront development: excitement now, but changes will take a lot of time and money
City is planning fundraising, activities to keep the momentum going
Now those same officials are trying to manage those expectations, cautioning that big changes will take time — and far more money than is currently available.
“I hope Phase 1 is complete in 15 years, but $12 million won’t get it done,” Deputy Mayor Karl Bandemer said, referring to Mayor Tom Henry’s April decision to seek $6 million from the city’s Legacy fund and $3 million from the Capital Improvement Board in addition to the $3 million previously pledged from the Fort Wayne Community Foundation. “How much public investment will be needed before the private sector will be willing to make an investment?”
And that is only one of the questions that must be answered as the city’s grand plan moves forward. The $12 million will pay for property appraisals, environmental studies, a riverbank management plan, soil samples, activity planning, feasibility studies for an ecology center and railroad-themed attraction called Headwaters Junction, and contracts to design Phase 1’s public centerpiece, a riverfront promenade near Harrison and Wells streets. But little construction can begin until the city controls the property it needs, and that will take time and an uncertain amount of cash.
Although the city has said it may use its power of eminent domain to acquire property needed for the promenade and other public-use components of the plan, Bandemer said the city cannot condemn property for private use — such as the shops, restaurants and housing it hopes will spring up near the rivers. Use of the nonprofit Downtown Development Trust may persuade landowners to accept a lower sale price in exchange for tax breaks, but those negotiations will still take time and there is no guarantee anyone will be willing to sell at a reasonable price.
For that reason, officials will be concentrating on the plan’s public spaces first, hoping tangible results and favorable public response will promote even more investment.
The city’s goal is to make as much land as possible “shovel-ready” for private businesses, said Pam Holocher, deputy director of community development. That means utilities and other infrastructure will be in place, which will also cost money. Phase 1 should also include removal of brush and other beautification efforts.
Those environmental studies will be crucial, because any development near rivers or in floodplains must navigate unique regulatory mazes that can also add time and cost.
While all that preparatory work is going on, the challenge will be to maintain the public’s excitement in the project, Bandemer said. An ongoing series of events will be planned to keep the focus on the rivers even before work begins in earnest.
And with the help of the Community Foundation the city is seeking funds from foundations, individuals and other sources to help with land acquisition and other expenses. Just how long the entire project will take — or how much it will cost to complete and maintain — is undetermined.
“This is a major, major project and it will take decades,” said Bill Brown, president of the Downtown Improvement District and a member of the city’s Riverfront Implementation Committee. “I think you’ll see the promenade relatively quickly, but the private sector will need to know it can monetize its investment. We have to figure out how to get (profit) into the equation, and the development won’t function the way it should without that.”
But at least two businesses are already prospering from river-related location and investments. Ben Hall, manager of the Gas House restaurant on Superior Street, said he opened a riverfront deck several years ago hoping to boost business during normally slow summer months. Now the deck has made summer the restaurant’s busiest season and is slated for expansion.
And Eden Lamb of Fort Wayne Outfitters, located in a former 19th-century train depot off Wells Street, said her business “has become a hub of river activity.”
“People are just drawn to the rivers,” Hall said.
The very scope of the project also explains why development is likely to move slowly. At 310 acres, including 2.6 miles of riverbanks, Holocher said the target area is twice the size of the Indianapolis canal “and one of the largest areas ever covered (by this type of plan).”
As a result, the final product may or may not resemble current plans — and even then is likely to be evolving constantly.
“This is just a vision,” Holocher said. “It will change 10 or 20 times before it is built.”