Building on efforts to galvanize downtown development, Mayor Graham Richard and Allen County Commissioner Bill Brown today announced the formation of the North River Downtown Task Force to address the development of land just north of the city center and the St. Marys River. The area encompasses the OmniSource property north of the river and alongside its banks between North Harrison and Clinton streets.

The study group has been charged with analyzing opportunities for this landmark district including possible projects or uses, issues of impact, outcomes, priorities, and financial considerations.

The North River area has been of significant interest to the community since well before the creation of Headwaters Park. As noted in the 2005 BlueprintPlus plan, the “North Core” represents a prime opportunity for transforming a near-river site into a lively, sought-out attraction; for creating a walkable, urban mixed-use place integrated with its surrounding neighborhoods; for strengthening the image of Fort Wayne as a family destination; and for making the river central to downtown and the region.

North River is an area of opportunity forever linked by water and history to our city center,” said Mayor Richard. “Highlighted in the Downtown Plan, North River reflects the new energy and development momentum that is permeating downtown. Its proximity to Headwaters Park, Lawton Park, Science Central, the former YWCA campus, and nearby neighborhoods will help to strengthen our urban fabric.”

The downtown plan recommended the establishment of the task force to explore the feasibility of various initiatives. Those include the development of a Youth Sports Complex; expansion of Lawton Park; re-establishment of a street grid; creation of a “Harrison Street North District;” and development of a mixed-use retail area at Clinton and Fourth streets. While all of these options may be considered, the goal of the task force will be to recommend the highest and best use of this property for the long-term benefit of the community.

In this new economy, a vibrant downtown is essential to attracting the high-paying jobs and the talented workers that will keep Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana competitive and desirable for generations to come,” said Mayor Richard. “We are working to create a downtown environment that helps us retain and gain jobs, brings private investment into the heart of the city and enhances our great quality of life. Those are the kinds of catalyst ideas we are seeking through the North River Downtown Task Force and other downtown initiatives underway.”

Allen County looks forward to working with the City of Fort Wayne to sustain the positive momentum in downtown,” said Commissioner Brown. “We must continue to be proactive to create a downtown environment that promotes job creation and new businesses.”

Rick Samek of Carson Boxberger, LLC and Wendy Stein of Stein Advertising will co-chair the task force. Samek also serves as president of the Fort Wayne Park Board. Stein also serves as president of the Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.

Task force members will be announced in the coming weeks. The task force will consist of government, community, business, and neighborhood representatives. The task force will work closely with adjoining neighborhoods and businesses.

The City of Fort Wayne has also a secured an 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. This will provide the City with the flexibility to strategically plan for the future in the North River area.

The North River Downtown study is a complement to the proposed Harrison Square project. With community-based plans guiding the overall downtown process and new financing tools in place, the City anticipates the viability of multiple downtown catalyst projects stimulating even more private investment, both large and small, in the city center. Prior to the recent investment by Fort Wayne Newspapers, downtown Fort Wayne has seen only $2 million in private investment in the last decade.