Spurred by the opening of Parkview Field in 2009, Fort Wayne has undergone a transformation. Gone are the days when suburbanites drove downtown only if they worked there or had business to do. Now, it’s a destination; one that’s been more than two decades in the making.
“We said we’d be successful when we saw dogs and strollers on weekends and evenings, and that is something you now see every night and every weekend if you’re downtown,” says Greater Fort Wayne Inc. CEO John Urbahns.
Urbahns, who has spent his career focusing on urban and economic development, says he knew there was a market for housing in downtown Fort Wayne, but underestimated just how many people would want to live there. “There’s a changing dynamic. People like cities our size, and appreciate the fact that the city and the community reinvested in itself. Now it’s created a new draw for people who want to come back to a downtown environment.”
One of the first key residential projects downtown was The Harrison, a condominium complex located next to Parkview Field. Urbahns says the Anthony Wayne Building condominiums, Cityscape Flats and the Randall Lofts have all proven to be popular places to live as well, with high occupancy rates and waiting lists. Colleague Ellen Cutter, who serves as Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s chief economic development officer, says the city is poised for even more growth.
“The thing that excites me most is that we have the infrastructure, the footprint and the grid system to handle the growth,” says Cutter. “On top of that, it’s the synergy between the business nine-to-five community, and the after-hours and weekend activity — a stronger residential presence has greatly aided in this positive interaction.”
Cutter says people of all ages – young professionals, empty nesters, an increasing number of retirees and young families – are choosing to live downtown because of amenities like restaurants, retail shops, an arts campus and leisure activities. “It really does have broad appeal,” she adds.
Like Cutter and Urbahns, Downtown Fort Wayne President & CEO Michael Galbraith says the momentum is invigorating.
“One of the things that’s really fantastic is that we are in an amazing growth period for the city. I’m a history geek and I like to look back at trends and data, and this kind of growth hasn’t happened since the 1920s or 1950s,” stresses Galbraith. “Fort Wayne is in one of those periods that we’re going to look back at and say, ‘Those were the golden years,’ and it’s really fun to be living it.”
All three leaders are quick to credit public and private partnerships for the growth.
“One of the secrets here is that we worked with different developers to figure out how to get projects done, even in tougher times which I think is an important piece,” explains Cutter. “If you talk to any of the developers who have done projects, they would say the community worked with them and figured out how to get it done.”
“This didn’t happen by accident. It took decades of planning, decades of trying to put the financial tools into place, decades of wrangling other organizations to be able to say we can collaborate, and we can come together and work on big projects,” Galbraith says.
Several of those big residential projects include The Lofts at Headwaters Park, which will be fully under construction later this year, and Elex at Electric Works coming in the winter of 2024. The Pearl, a mixed-use development being built along Main Street, will include over 70 apartment-style living spaces. The Wedge at Promenade Park is the first residential project proposed for the north side of the St. Marys River. Construction is expected to start this year.
“I feel the north side of the river is really the next frontier when it comes to downtown. There are about 50 acres of land available there to develop,” Urbahns says. “How many other communities have that kind of acreage right on the river? We’re going to see a significant residential component of that. It’s exciting to have been part of something that has led to this. Every time something is built, there’s a waiting list. People keep asking me, ‘When will we build enough?’ Well, there’s still a demand,” says Urbahns.
Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
200 E. Main St., Suite 800 | Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802
(260) 420-6945 | email@example.com
Downtown Fort Wayne
904 S. Calhoun St. | Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802
(260) 420-3266 | firstname.lastname@example.org