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The Journal Gazette

  • Corey McMaken | The Journal Gazette The sculpture “Convergence” will welcome visitors to Promenade Park.

Sunday, August 04, 2019 1:00 am


Promenade accelerates expectations of renaissance

When Promenade Park is unveiled on Friday, riverfront development critics will be as hard to find as Parkview Field naysayers. The beautiful riverfront park will dispel any doubts an urban oasis can be created from unappealing terrain.

Promenade Park also is likely to whet residents' appetites for the next phase of riverfront development, now on the drawing board at David Rubin Land Collective. The plan created by the landscape architecture and urban design studio was expected this summer, but city officials now say it will be available to the public sometime before October.

The consultant will need the extra time because Promenade Park, along with the transformation of The Landing, raises the bar. Where residents once bemoaned replacement of a perfectly fine baseball stadium, they now are excited and eager for bold projects at Electric Works and the Arts Campus. Parkview Fieldsparked not only a downtown renaissance, but also pride and confidence in Fort Wayne's future.

When the Land Collective's plan is unveiled, we'll be looking for features that build on our success. Residential and commercial development is welcome, but there are plans for much of both – at Electric Works, The Landing and two other sites east of Promenade Park. What's needed is something with a “wow” factor for the second and third phases of riverfront development, including the highly visible North River site. 

When residents were invited to offer suggestions at public information-gathering sessions in January and March, hundreds showed up to share ideas.  At one gathering, Fort Wayne resident Pete Prowant endorsed the Headwaters Junction proposal for a railroad-themed attraction on a portion of the North River site, where Omnisource was once located.

“My favorite thing that might come out of this is I'd like to see (locomotive) No. 765 and Headwaters Junction,” Prowant said in March. “We have to make sure we don't just function for five months out of the year. It has to be year-round to be an attraction.”

Glenn Ellenberger said nearby development prompted his bakery's decision to buy the former Jack and Johnny's location on North Wells Street and restore it as the new home for Purple Mountain Cheesecakes. He especially likes the idea of Headwaters Junction.

“There's no question about the potential,” he said. “Those steam locomotives are so popular. They are always such a huge attraction and something you can do repeatedly. It would be a major draw.”

Fort Wayne residents are long past the days of doubting our potential. The Land Collective, which created cutting-edge designs for Eskenazi Hospital and Newfields Art Museum in Indianapolis, should know our community is expecting the same bold plans as our riverfront renaissance continues. Headwaters Junction could help bring the returns expected from the $2.4 million invested in planning.