Promenade Park's success is obvious.
Last week, people strolled along walkways and lounged on benches near the St. Marys River, where Sweet Breeze – a replica canal boat – was moored, waiting for passengers. Children splashed in the Doermer Kids Canal, a flowing waterway with climbable rocks.
The $20 million, four-acre park that straddles the north and south banks of the river recently was honored by the Urban Land Institute as one of the country's10 best land use projects.
When it opened two years ago, Promenade Park marked completion of the first of a three-phase effort to redevelop the downtown waterfront. It was an exciting start to revitalizing an underutilized resource, and future plans add inspiring elements.
Phase II proposals unveiled Wednesday would extend development of public, open spaces along the north side of the river, from Clinton Street to Harrison Street and from the Wells Street Bridge to Ewing Street. Beginning at the Ewing Street bridge on the south side of the St. Marys, a new streetscape will lead to the park.
Promenade Park essentially will be sandwiched between new development west and east of the existing property on each riverbank.
That means more trails, a wetland boardwalk, open-air pavilion, two new boat docks and green space. Plans call for creating a new section of the popular tree canopy trail overlooking the river, new signage and more ways to access the river.
The price tag is expected to be $25 million, which will be paid through local income taxes.
“By creating an intentional and engaging public space as part of Phase II, we will build on the momentum of Promenade Park to continue bringing our community back to the riverfront,” Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department Director Steve McDaniel said.
City leaders for years have argued spending to create quality-of-life improvements such as parkland will lure private developers, and officials are banking on that again.
“These new developments are also catalysts for private investment, which will provide a long-term financial return on our community's investment,” Nancy Townsend, the city's director of community development, said in a statement.
That's likely, given what's already underway near Promenade Park.
While Townsend, McDaniel and Mayor Tom Henry discussed plans with reporters in a news conference last week, crews nearby were working on a nearly $89 million mixed-use development. The Riverfront at Promenade Park project will house more than 200 apartments, a parking garage and office and retail space.
“Listening to (the) community and providing them things that they want – that's what this is about,” Townsend said at the news conference.
Phase II plans are based on designs and community feedback gathered about three years ago. There won't be any public input sessions this time, so it's important city leaders carefully vet plans and costs when they are brought before panels such as the Fort Wayne City Council.
Construction could begin in late 2022, after documents detailing specific plans for development are finished this year and necessary permitting is acquired, so there is time for discussion.
We expect there will be plenty.