ANALYSIS IDENTIFIES OPPORTUNITIES FOR ADDITIONAL COMMERCIAL SOUTHSIDE DEVELOPMENT

A recently finalized analysis shows opportunities for commercial growth in south Fort Wayne, including as many as 120 new retail shops and restaurants in the areas roughly bounded by downtown to the north, Lower Huntington and Tillman roads on the south, Hessen Cassel Road on the east, and the St. Marys River and Waynedale to the west.

The report, conducted by Gibbs Planning Group, indicates that south Fort Wayne households could support an additional 247,000 square feet of retail and restaurant development, as well as 9,100 square feet of commercial space and up to 70 new hotel rooms.

The City of Fort Wayne’s Community Development Division contracted with Gibbs in 2014. To complete the analysis, Bob Gibbs and his associates visited Fort Wayne several times and spoke with property owners, City officials, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. officials, retailers, neighborhood residents and commercial and residential industry experts.

An online and paper survey of area residents was conducted to understand preferences for development. Population, consumer expenditure and demographic data were used to conduct the final analysis. In the surveys, residents indicated a strong desire for sit-down restaurants and coffee shops in the study area.

Gibbs offers several recommendations for spurring south-side development including: hiring of a specialized business recruitment specialist, creation of TIF districts in key commercial areas, continuing residential development and neighborhood stabilization efforts, and the creation of a dedicated business improvement district. The report also provides specific evaluations and recommendations for three key south Fort Wayne commercial areas: Southgate Plaza, Quimby Village and Southtown Centre.

“I’m encouraged by the report’s findings as we continue our commitment to making enhancements and increasing economic opportunities in south Fort Wayne,” said Mayor Tom Henry. “This analysis provides updated information and recommendations that will assist us in our efforts as we evaluate the best options for action steps to increase retail, restaurant and hospitality growth and access to services for our residents.”

Steady progress has been made over the years in south Fort Wayne, including stabilizing neighborhoods through the Blight Elimination Program and improving infrastructure such as sewers, streets, roads and sidewalks. Updated housing options are available throughout south Fort Wayne with 66 new lease-to-purchase homes recently built in Renaissance Pointe. Southtown Centre has seen steady growth with the addition of Menard’s and Wal-Mart. To continue the progress, the Community Development Division contracted with Gibbs to provide current data and recommendations. Previous studies were completed prior to the recession.

The City’s Community Development division plans to listen to feedback from south side residents, business leaders, developers and Greater Fort Wayne Inc. officials regarding the analysis and then determine next steps.

The Waynedale News Staff
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