There are visions of a market and brewery.
Maybe a coffee shop and restaurant, a bicycle repair shop and an outdoor plaza.
The asphalt, right now pocked with potholes and cracks, would give way to an outdoor plaza, a buffer zone for pedestrians to keep them safe from the heavy traffic of Broadway.
Across the street would be an amphitheater in the park just off the river.
These are what some people dream of for Quimby Village, a strip mall built in the 1950s on what is now a major corridor leading from Fort Wayne International Airport into the city.
The dream, though, comes with an unspecified price tag and cooperation between private entities, and it will take years to be realized – all of which are absolutely doable, say people behind the dreams.
Plans for what Quimby Village could become were presented Friday, along with a slew of other projects, at the My City Summit put on by the Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.
Beyond a makeover for the strip mall, presenters are putting together a proposal that could win state funds for the region through the Regional Cities Initiative. The various projects they discussed include murals, festivals and building renovations that could attract new residents to the city and encourage current residents to stay.
"We think all these projects can and will happen in the future," said Josh Summers, an architect with Fort Wayne Community Schools, who is helping with the proposal.
The Regional Cities Initiative gives northeast Indiana and other regions a chance to compete for up to $42 million in state matching funds for capital projects. Regions need to submit proposals comprising a comprehensive list of quality-of-life projects aimed at attracting and retaining young talent.
At My City Summit, those putting together the list of projects being submitted to the state gave a preview of this region’s submission, which will be made public Aug. 15.
Quimby Village’s selection as a project began after it was identified in a recent study commissioned by the city as something that could be spruced up along the major arteries of Fort Wayne leading into the city – the idea being that a better aesthetic would give people a better view of the city.
Later, the strip mall was identified in a study looking at retail opportunities on the city’s south side as a facility with the infrastructure that could support businesses.
Entrepreneur Rick Kinney has been trying to renovate the old Clyde Theater and turn it into a music venue, using it to anchor the complex. He previously told The Journal Gazette he is gathering private equity to complete renovations and has had talks with city officials.
"We see that as a catalyst to revitalize that whole shopping center," said Justin Brugger, Fort Wayne’s director of redevelopment.
But as far as the city providing money for such a project, or even a project like renovating the entire shopping complex, it’s too early in the process.
"We have not had those conversations yet," Brugger said. "We’re waiting to see how we can partner and participate. Certainly, TIF would be a tool we could use if the right opportunities come about."
TIFs, or tax increment finance districts, are geographic zones within a municipality or county that capture property taxes generated by development to pay for improvements within that district. TIF money is commonly used for infrastructure improvements, such as the streets and sewers that made initial development possible.
In northeast Indiana’s proposal for the Regional Cities Initiative, the Clyde is a Phase 1 project, meaning that it would receive money for renovations quickly. The entirety of Quimby Village would be a Phase 2 project, meaning that money would be pumped into the strip mall during the ensuing three to eight years.
Ellen Cutter, who works at the IPFW Community Research Institute and heads the Regional Cities Initiative proposal team, said each project submitted to the state must show how it would deliver a return on investment and meet certain criteria.
Like her cohorts, she doesn’t see the projects as dreams. She sees them as the region’s future reality – with or without the $42 million from the initiative.
"We’re actually going to get these projects done," Cutter said.