Mayor Tom Henry’s administration is seeking $10 million from Fort Wayne’s Legacy Fund – or about a quarter of the fund – to build the first phase of the downtown riverfront development project.
Henry announced Monday that the request will go to the Legacy Joint Funding Committee on Nov. 9. If approved, the outlay would be considered by and voted on by the City Council in December.
The money would finance the construction of public spaces along the St. Marys River between Harrison Street and the Wells Street Bridge. Plans call for, among other things, a park pavilion, plazas, riverfront terraces, a water feature, a boardwalk and a children’s playground.
Development advocates expect such public amenities to attract restaurants, retailers and residential spaces to areas near that stretch of the St. Marys.
The Legacy Fund contribution, if approved, would cover half the expected $20 million price tag for phase 1 construction, with other funds coming from private or nonprofit investors.
The riverfront proposal "is really what Legacy is all about," Henry said at a news conference on the Wells Street Bridge.
"When I created that Legacy Fund several years ago, that was the intention," he said. "It wasn’t to be a savings account to pass on to the next generation and that generation to pass on to another one. … The whole intent of Legacy was to invest it in projects that would stand the test of time, that we could then pass on to the next generation and say to them, ‘This is what we’ve done for you; now take care of it.’ "
Set up by the lease and sale of the former city electric utility, the Legacy Fund contains nearly $40 million. The fund already has provided $6 million to the riverfront project for land acquisition, environmental studies and riverbank cleanup.
City Parks Director Al Moll said the requested construction money is "essential to the project" in part because it would show prospective investors in the riverfront area that "the city and the City Council both have some skin on the table in this project – $10 million is pretty substantial."
Moll said a Legacy Fund grant "gives the confidence that the project is moving forward."
He said the city is still looking at completing its portion of the development in late 2018 or early 2019.
Ron Dick of Design Collaborative, part of the design team working on the development, said that "a lot of community eyeballs are on this. So we feel the pressure, but it’s good pressure. It’s just a lot of great excitement that continues to go on for this project."
Dick said the design team has been mapping a "tree canopy" trail along the river levy and revising its plans for the east-end children’s play area.