North River Now Opportunity Plan Released to the Public
Conceptual Development Plan Embodies Final Work of Community Task Force
Fort Wayne Mayor Graham Richard and Allen County Commissioner Bill Brown recently released the final version of the North River Now Conceptual Development Plan to the public. The plan is the work product of the North River Now Task Force, the diverse community group charged with assessing opportunities for the development of the land just north of the city center and the St. Marys River.
The North River Now study area encompassed the OmniSource property north of the river and alongside its banks between North Harrison and Clinton streets. The task force focused it efforts on analyzing opportunities for this landmark district including possible projects or uses, issues of impact, outcomes, priorities, and financial considerations.
“With gratitude for the excellent work of the North River Now Task Force, it is a pleasure to present this plan to the public,” said Mayor Richard. “It represents the next stage in the development of a vibrant downtown Fort Wayne, one that will help us retain and gain jobs, bring private investment into the heart of the city and enhance our great quality of life. North River is a unique catalyst opportunity to create a strong private-public partnership that will help to keep Fort Wayne and our area competitive and desirable for generations to come.”
“This plan builds on the initiatives of local entrepreneurs such as Nick’s Deck on the River and Fort Wayne Outfitters, Kayak and Bicycle rental,” said Commission Brown. “The momentum of these private sector investments and the participation of residents from across Allen County, create extraordinary opportunities at the summit, historically known of as the ‘Glorious Gate to the West.'”
The complete North River Now Conceptual Development Plan, along with the entire archive of task force data, is available on the project Web site at www.NorthRiverNow.org.
Formed in April 2007, the 34-member task force chaired by Wendy Stein and Rick Samek concentrated its work into a 120-day timeframe. To ensure the full participation of the public, four community brainstorming workshops were held. A five-question survey also was distributed through City Utilities’ bills to approximately 80,000 households, and the same survey was also available online. In addition, an intense, weeklong design charrette was conducted in late July that featured athree public opportunities for hands-on input.
The primary, consistent message from the public was to take action now; doing nothing was not considered an option. The specific, dominant community themes used to shape the plan were as follows:
•Create a canal or water feature on the site;
•Close portions of 4th Street between Clinton and Spy Run Avenue, expanding Lawton Park to the river;
•Include a variety of green spaces throughout the site;
•Locate the proposed regional facility to the north edge of the site;
•Intensify uses on the site;
•Expand the site’s reach to the St. Marys River;
•Create a hard edge along the river;
•Develop east-west connections through the site, such as Spring to Tennessee and Putnam to Elizabeth streets;
•Establish a new north-south connector parallel to Clinton Street; and
•Understand the citywide implications of the proposed development.
The vision and framework for the Conceptual Development Plan were first revealed to the community during the last public session of the design charrette. In the months following, the report was drafted, and then refined and approved by the task force. When finished, the document was presented to Mayor Richard and the Allen County Commissioners for their review.
The plan is organized into seven chapters: 1) Introduction; 2) Methodology, providing an overview of the process; 3) Background, highlighting the findings of existing, relevant downtown studies and all public input; 4) Planning and Design Principles, including a discussion of the 13 development principles that frame the plan; 5) Conceptual Development Plan, detailing a description of the uses and facilities identified throughout the charrette process; 6) Transportation Plan, describing recommended changes to the current road network within and outside the site; and 7) Implementation, specifying strategies for jumpstarting implementation of the North River plan.
The Conceptual Development Plan chapter depicts six distinctive areas or conditions that are each addressed and defined within the document, as follows:
Water Theme, River Esplanade, Mixed-Use Core, Civic District, Residential Buffer and Green Infrastructure.
The Implementation chapter outlines eight recommendations. Each statement received the endorsement of the task force during its August 23 meeting, and indicates what should be done to initiate implementation of the plan, as summarized below:
•Secure the land;
•Establish an independent and sustainable panel to guide the implementation of the North River Conceptual Development Plan and market the plan;
•Dedicate the proposed right-of-way network and pursue planned road improvements;
•Adopt the North River plan’s planning and design principles and the Conceptual Development Plan map as an amendment to Plan-it Allen!;
•Develop a package of incentives to facilitate development;
•Pursue a coordinated development strategy while taking steps to ensure that all development is consistent with the plan;
•Conduct studies needed to identify market potential, phasing and catalyst projects, and to determine the fiscal impact of the proposed development; and
•Convene and staff a commission of government agencies, stakeholders and the public to recommend how to care for, preserve and promote the river and riverfront quality and use.
The task force was supported in its efforts by members of the City of Fort Wayne Division of Community Development and the consultant team, specifically:
ACP – Visioning and Planning, the lead planning and design firm; Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin, transportation specialists; Convention, Sports & Leisure, sport facility market specialist; and Gary Bumpus, architectural illustrator.
The City’s option agreement with OmniSource for its 29 acres of land north of the St. Marys River, west of Clinton Street, south of the former YWCA property, and east of Harrison Street runs through the end of 2007.