For most of Dave Arnold’s commercial real estate development career, he focused on Fort Wayne’s suburbs.
As an executive first for Northill and then Miller-Valentine Group, Arnold worked on projects that included Sycamore Hills, Canterbury Green Apartments, The Willows of Coventry apartments, Dupont Office Center and Pointe Inverness office suites.
It wasn’t until the Fort Wayne native went to work for Ambassador Enterprises that downtown loomed large in his professional life. When the Downtown Improvement District learned that Ambassador was interested in investing downtown, it invited the firm to nominate someone for DID’s board.
Arnold, 56, was Ambassador’s choice. Thus began his three-year service, which ended last month. He chaired the board the past two years, leading its successful 10-year reauthorization.
The son of Bob Arnold, who worked for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department for 47 years, was excited to give back to the community. But he didn’t come into the position with an agenda other than a desire to see the DID be effective.
Well, maybe one agenda. He wanted to encourage civic pride.
"We have had that attitude in Fort Wayne of being second-class citizens for such a long time," Arnold said. "And that’s (been) a detriment to our growth."
But the 1977 Bishop Luers graduate has seen that attitude change.
"Our community looks at downtown as a neighborhood. It’s a place that we love, work and play," he said. "And not only is it a neighborhood, it’s everybody’s neighborhood. We all have a sense of connection."
Arnold’s connection continues. Last summer he went to work for Great Lakes Capital, the firm that is developing the residential portion of the Ash Skyline Plaza.
The key to maintaining momentum, he said, is for suburban residents to discover downtown and overcome outdated notions about high crime rates and lack of exciting places to go.
– Sherry Slater