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City to begin Legacy-funded rivers study

FORT WAYNE -- Mayor Tom Henry kicked off the city's first Legacy project Tuesday as officials announced the first step in creating a comprehensive study of the downtown rivers.

"This is the first comprehensive look at our rivers for opportunities to enhance and develop downtown," Henry said. "Our goal is for the study to provide the road map to world-class investment."

There have been numerous studies of downtown through the years, and numerous recommendations that the city should use its rivers to its advantage. But no study has ever looked at how to use them, whether they can be used, how they can be used and what their use might mean for development.

This study, for which the city has set aside up to $500,000, will examine environmental issues, flooding, navigation and recreation uses, and include a complete hydrology study.

"This will help guide us through the next decade of projects," Director of Community Development John Urbahns said. "It's going to be a very involved public engagement process."

The proposals from potential consultants to conduct the comprehensive study are due by April 12. The city then hopes a contract can be negotiated by the end of the summer.

The study is expected to take up to 18 months, meaning it could be 2015 before any projects suggested by the study even begin.

City Councilman Tom Smith, R-1st, said riverfront development has been talked about for decades, but this study could be the basis for decades of development to come.

"Now we're going to find out if (development) is feasible," Smith said. "We're going to find out what we can and cannot do."

While nearly everyone agrees the rivers should be used in some way, their use is complicated by their tendency to flood and the existing flood protection that lines parts of them. There are also parks, businesses and marshy areas.

The Legacy Fund was created from the lease and sale of the city's old electric utility. Committees spent two years creating goals and projects for the $47 million on hand; an additional $28 million will come in to the fund during the next 12 years.

Further information about the scope of the study can be found online at