As Fort Wayne basks in the glow of unprecedented downtown development, fueled by tens of millions of dollars in public-private partnerships, Mayor Tom Henry says interest in the state’s second-largest city is showing no signs of slowing down. Henry says at least six projects, including two hotels, are scheduled to break ground in the spring, validating the city as a destination for businesses, tourists and talent. Henry says a hands-on approach to downtown redevelopment has been a key part of the city’s strategy for more than a decade. "My feeling is a vibrant, thriving downtown, an exciting downtown, can contribute immensely to economic development," said Henry, on a special Fort Wayne Town Hall edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.
Henry says Parkview Field, which turns 10 years old in 2018, has been a catalyst for growth.
Henry says Fort Wayne’s momentum is sparking increased interest from private investors.
Earlier this month, officials unveiled plans for a nearly $62 million private, mixed-use development along the Fort Wayne riverfront. The seven-story project will be located next to Promenade Park, which is currently under construction and is one of the signature pieces of the downtown resurgence.
Plans from Minnesota-based Continental Property Group include 150 apartments, 20,000 square-feet of retail space and more than 1,000 parking spaces.
In November, plans were released for a new boutique hotel in the city’s downtown. The nearly $28 million, five-story hotel will feature 125 rooms, restaurants, ground-level retail spaces and a rooftop entertainment space. The hotel is being developed by Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, co-founder of Fort Wayne-based Vera Bradley Inc. (Nasdaq: VRA), and Oregon-based Provenance Hotels. Baekgaard will oversee the interior design of the hotel.
Additional major projects in various stages of development in Fort Wayne include:
- The Landing, a $36 million redevelopment of historic buildings
- Riverfront Promenade, $100 million project to activate the confluence of downtown’s three rivers (2017-21; Watch construction progress)
- Electric Works, a $300 million redevelopment of the historic former GE campus into a live, work, play community;
- STEAM Park, a $180 million science, technology, engineering, arts, and math campus.
A $105 million downtown event center, which would also serve as an expansion of the Grand Wayne Center, was recently put on hold by Mayor Henry. "We threw a lot at our citizen base very quickly, with the hotels, restaurants and mixed use development," said Henry, who expects the project to come back as other, ongoing developments mature. "I think the event center is in our future," said Henry.
Watch the full Tom Henry interview: