It may not be apparent on the surface, but months of work have prompted the city of Fort Wayne to renew a contract with Indigo Centers to market south Fort Wayne to potential retail stores and restaurants.
"Some things Indigo Centers was to do, and has made a lot of progress on, is to research and identify who would be interested or willing to consider locating in south Fort Wayne," Nancy Townsend, the city’s redevelopment director, said Thursday. "If you can imagine the effort there, Indigo started with hundreds of possibilities."
The original contract with Indigo Centers started in November 2015, Townsend said, and ran through the end of May. At that time the contract was extended through October. Townsend said the city will evaluate then whether it is ready to move forward locally to make the investments happen or whether more time to recruit is necessary. But Townsend said she believes the efforts will pay off. The contract cost will remain at $5,000 per month.
"People are starting to come here on their own and not just be recruited to come here. Developers are looking at Fort Wayne, not just being asked to look at Fort Wayne," Townsend said. "We’re hopeful that the next 10 to 12 months will have very positive results."
Jeff Higgins, CEO of Indigo Centers, was unavailable for comment.
Indigo Centers has whittled the list of possible retailers and restaurants that could be interested in coming to Fort Wayne to a few dozen prospects, Townsend said. The firm has also identified various pieces of land and buildings that would be a good match for some of the prospects.
Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, whose district covers most of the south side, said he hasn’t heard much about the progress Indigo Centers is making to market south Fort Wayne. However, he said he has a meeting with Indigo Centers staff on July 28. Hines said he wants to know what contacts have been used, if any businesses or developers have expressed interest in locating to the area and the type – and quality – of the retail stores that have been contacted.
"My primary measurement of success would be whether they’ve made multiple contacts and, of course, three or four hot leads – interest from companies that either have come to Fort Wayne for a look or have asked for more data about Fort Wayne," Hines said.
Moving forward into the next five months, Townsend said the city can be more tactical with its approach.
The list of prospects and possible locations, makes it easier to identify what needs to happen next, Townsend said. The information from Indigo Centers will be paired with the 2015 Gibbs Planning Group study, which found that south Fort Wayne could handle as much as 247,000 more square feet of retail and restaurant development, 9,100 square feet of commercial space and up to 70 new hotel rooms. Those figures were based on population growth and income projections through 2025.
"We will be putting together a more tactical plan, including marketing elements, that identifies needs – whether it be a facade grant type thing, or additional infrastructure," Townsend said. "We’ll assess those needs and prepare ways to address them."
The city will also begin putting together incentive opportunities to help entice businesses to locate to the area, Townsend added, noting that the city plans to look to the local business community as partners to implement a marketing strategy for the area. In that same vein, there are local businesses expressing interest in opening up shop on the city’s south side.
But it’s still early to tell what new development on the south side will look like. As other developments, like the redevelopment of the Coca-Cola bottling plant on East Pontiac Street, come to fruition the needs and interests of residents and developers may change, Townsend said.