From the Ash Skyline Plaza to the startup businesses inside the City Exchange, it all required a leap of faith to move into downtown, says Megan Butler, events manager for the Downtown Improvement District.
"I think so much of professional life and professional decisions are a leap of faith. It’s saying, ‘OK, I don’t have a guarantee that this is going to work out, but I believe that it can, and I believe that it will, and so I’m going to give it my all and go for it,’ " Butler says.
The Celebrate Downtown event Thursday at the Cinema Center is about acknowledging the efforts to revive downtown’s opportunities for restaurants, retail and development.
Butler says DID will recognize people, places and partnerships over the past year and announce the organization’s plans for 2016.
The Alicia Pyle Quartet will perform, and photography of the downtown area will be on display.
Butler says award winners will be revealed during the event.
"I’ve read how people suggest that at (the) end of the year, you should read through your journals and write down your goals for the next year, so that’s kind of what we’re doing.
"We’re sort of looking over everything that we’ve done and celebrating our accomplishments and then looking forward."
Outside of the ongoing Ash project, Butler says there has been noticeable growth in downtown restaurants and retail over the past year.
In her opinion, the formation of DID in 1995 was the real turning point for the area.
"The creation of the organization itself signaled a change. You had all of these leaders come together and say, ‘Look, downtown is important. We need it to be more than just a place people work. We need it to be the real center of life and existence of our city,’ " Butler says.
Last summer, the City Council approved for DID to operate another 10 years. Butler says the organization is entering 2016 thinking of long-term goals.
He says DID plans to continue to improve the cleanliness and safety of downtown Fort Wayne, which includes replacing trees and old grates and adding planters.
DID is also formulating new programs to connect business leaders and new events, such as Mother’s Day Downtown this spring.
Butler hopes the public leaves the event with a sense of pride.
"Some people may have this envy of ‘big cities,’ and the truth of the matter is that here in Fort Wayne, we have just as many cultural opportunities, just as many educational opportunities and business opportunities, and we have just as many talented, hard-working people who are contributing their time, talent and treasure to making the city a great place," she says.
"Great cities don’t become great cities magically; they become great because people stay there, and they work hard to make it great."