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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Purses are put in place prior to last week’s opening of Carson’s.

Word’s out: We’re a city on rebound

The best evidence of a city’s renaissance might be when other communities come looking for advice on how to trigger their own.

Has Fort Wayne found the key to an economic revival? Evansville officials think so. They’re studying Fort Wayne’s investment in its downtown as they push for a taxpayer-supported, 253-room convention hotel and infrastructure development. When the city’s Courier & Press checked out what’s happened here, its report focused on downtown. It could have found signs, however, of an economic upturn well beyond the central city – signs that should cheer area residents.

The Evansville report took note of Parkview Field, the Harrison, Marriott Courtyard and the skybridges linking downtown venues. It noted a proposal for a downtown sports arena targeting events for individuals with disabilities.

Not mentioned were projects just blocks away, including the $15 million renovation of the Anthony Wayne Building into office and residential space. A 120-year-old building at 821 S. Calhoun has just been renovated for four apartments and a first-floor restaurant, adding to the quaint character of the street.

More activity is under way at 200 E. Main St., where an upscale restaurant and nightspot is preparing to open in the former Park Place Grill, and on Columbia Street’s Landing, home to Red Rok BBQ and Bourbon. Another major office development is rumored to be in the works at the intersection of Harrison and Wayne streets.

Retail activity is booming elsewhere. Carson’s opened last week at Glenbrook Square, with a $1.6 million renovation of the space occupied by Marshall Field. Costco Wholesale is set to open mid-October at Lima Road and Interstate 69 – a $16 million development. Dunham’s Sports recently opened in Glenbrook Commons, across from the busy sports hub that includes Lutheran Health Sportscenter and SportONE Parkview Fieldhouse. A second Burlington Coat Factory store is planned for Glenbrook Commons, as well.

Mayor Tom Henry attributes the burst of activity to intentional efforts.

“I’m encouraged by the positive momentum in our city,” he said. “Our commitment to streets and roads, our parks, public safety, neighborhoods and quality of life is paying off. … The public-private partnerships in downtown development are making a meaningful difference. Harrison Square is a great example.

“I’m also looking forward to more business, housing and retail developments in downtown and throughout the community.”

Henry said he isn’t satisfied, however.

“Even with all of the recent good news, we know there’s still work to be done,” Henry said. “I feel really good about where we are as a city but also want to make sure we continue to push forward with retaining and attracting jobs, bringing in new businesses, and placing a heavy emphasis on education, our infrastructure system, public safety and our neighborhoods.”

An ambitious list, for sure – one to tackle after taking just a moment to enjoy those signs of progress.