Home > Political Animal > The Rivers, lofts, the addressless, and friction

The Rivers, lofts, the addressless, and friction

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader

2014-12-04


Two top city employees handed out annotated four-color flyers detailing the tentative plans for the downtown river front. As the flyers were passed from hand-to-hand, Pam Holocher and Sherese Fortriede offered an explanation of each drawing and diagram.

Their audience was a collection of neighborhood leaders from the south side, each savvy, each a veteran of years of fighting with and along side city hall, and each deeply impressed with the proposed transformation of Fort Wayne’s most neglected resource.

The plans for the riverfront are well along in concept and detail. They include new bridges, a reconfiguration of Lawton Park into some sort of adventure destination, overlook promenades and boat launches. It is a nice collection of active and passive areas, and for those neighborhood leaders in the room it was a heartening step in the right direction.

But the officials were careful to caution that the plans depend upon “public-private partnerships” to be realized, meaning the images represented a wish list, not a final plan. Don’t expect to see the river front completed in this decade, maybe ever. What was presented represents $50 million or more in work, probably much more. Standing fore square between this plan and its implementation is an election, the mayoral and city election of 2015.

The development of the rivers goes hand-in-hand with the redevelopment of the center of town. Everyone is aware of the big dig at Harrison and Wayne, but meanwhile the Anthony Wayne Bank Building is nearing redevelopment as condos, offices and retail. A few blocks away the massive red brick at Pearl and Harrison is undergoing the same metamorphosis. Same with a collection of buildings along the Landing and a block north on Superior Street. Couple those lofts, penthouses and flats with the full-up Harrison at the ballpark, the new hotel, planned brownstones along Ewing and a dozen other downtown projects, and you have hundreds of new living spaces. The Millenials, all studies show, want to be downtown, not in a ranch in the suburbs.

This all means change and change means unrest. Recently, police rousted a bunch of homeless from our river banks. An officer friend told me part of the story: that the homeless gents would pop out of their enclosures butt-naked and piss wherever they chose, sometimes to the amusement of passing drivers, sometimes to consternation of joggers on the Greenway. After more than a few complaints, a number of “settlements” were cleared out and multiple dump trucks full of debris taken to the landfill. Some of these gentlemen were pissing or shitting in public, some were begging for bucks on the Greenway, some intimidating the Lululemon crowd. My friend the officer said more than a few of the men living in the trees, along the banks suffer from one or another social, mental or physical problem. Ironically, he added, many had worn out their welcome at the various social service shelters due to one violation of rules or another — ironically, because the loudest complaints came from among the leaders of those organizations. Change kicks up a lot of dust.

I receive notifications daily from city hall of one activity or another, from ribbon cuttings and garbage collection holiday schedules, to awards and detours around water line breaks. Over the past year I have noticed numerous awards for items ranging from a winning float in the Three Rivers Parade to international recognition of our recycling program. So, I asked the city information officer, John Perlich, formerly a reporter at WOWO, to compile a list and send it to me. A week or so later six pages of recognitions and awards, each taking only a tersely written line or two, hit my desktop. A few are similar to the winning float, but many are much more significant and speak to employees who outshine the best and the brightest engineers, planners and administrators around the world. From 311 to the Parks Department to the city’s vehicle fleet to our sewage handling systems to our recycling program, our city government ranks among the best in the world.

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