High Water Mark
Stacey Stumpf, Journal Gazette
Interestingly, out of the many proposed riverfront development projects, Headwaters Junction is the only multiuse development project the RFP requires consultants to consider. That plan, proposed by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, calls for moving the locomotive steam engine No. 765 to downtown and using it as the centerpiece of an educational and entertainment venue located on a portion of the North River property.
The North River property, despite not being on the river, is featured prominently in the study proposal request. The property, formerly occupied by OmniSource, is a site of about 37 acres northwest of Clinton and Fourth streets.
The 2007 North River Now development plan is required reading for prospective consultants. And rather than follow the contours of the rivers downtown, the map outlining the study area takes in the North River property, making it clear city leaders want the study to prompt its development.
Jim Sack, Fort Wayne Reader
Speaking of transformational, the Henry Administration has a wonderful opportunity in the “person” of the massive and inspiring steam engine 765. The people who resurrected the legacy engine, who have made it again into a stunning Iron Horse, are willing to put it to work for Fort Wayne. They have proposed using the North River property, the old Omnisource space, as a home for the huge memorial to Fort Wayne’s grand transportation history.
We were once IT when it came to the rails, to steam engines, to the manufacture of grand rail cars and rail commerce. Not to take advantage of 765 and put her back to work for our city would be a shame and a missed opportunity of the first degree. The Legacy process talked of transformative; this is it! Fire her up, build an interactive, family friendly center around her and schedule 765 to regularly carry fun lovers and history buffs to Chicago or wherever the tracks lead. Any developer involved in the North River Project, whether from Baltimore or Butler, should jump at the offer.
“A Great Opportunity for the City”
Editorial, Fort Wayne News Sentinel
“Big, bold, transformational.” These are the words used by community leaders and Legacy Fort Wayne to describe an idea to bring a world-famous train downtown. But what’s so bold and transformational about a train? Just about everything…
The Legacy Fort Wayne initiative recognized the opportunity to include engine No. 765 and its vintage stablemates, which are stored in a facility east of New Haven when not in use, in initial studies for riverfront development. What would it be like to have a dinner train downtown or our very own Polar Express? What could a 1944-built time machine and its thousands of visitors do in helping make downtown a destination?
Imagine a street car taking visitors to the zoo; shops, restaurants and river tours set against the dramatic, animated backdrop of the train and its environment; annual programming and events using the train as the centerpiece.
Just as you need not be a fan of baseball to enjoy an evening at Parkview Field, you need not be a student of history to be entranced by an attraction as versatile as the train. Just as a simple baseball game has helped bring the masses to discover downtown, this locomotive and its counterparts are our pied pipers waiting in the wings.
Headwaters Junction Proposal Hopes to Redevelop Riverfront
Plan would give steam locomotive home downtown
Sarah Janssen, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
The idea for Headwaters Junction, an educational and entertainment venue that would provide a link to local attractions like the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, isn’t new. Lynch first proposed the idea more than two years ago, before the historic Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad freight depot on Clinton Street was demolished, but hasn’t been able to gather enough monetary support for the plan. What’s changed is the opportunity for funding through the Legacy Fund, money the city made on the lease and sale of its old electric utility City Power & Light.
About $47 million will be immediately available while an additional $28 million will trickle in over the next 12 years. The proposal carries a price tag of about $20.5 million, based on estimates from other cities that have tackled similar endeavors. He said if completed in its entirety as it’s proposed, Headwaters Junction would require funding from various sources, but the Legacy Fund provided the vehicle for the idea to take off.
A nod from the task force determining how the funds should be spent could provide a boost to the plan in convincing the mayor, his administration and the community that Headwaters Junction is a viable option for the north river property near the St. Marys River just north of downtown.
Headwaters Junction is mentioned in the Legacy Task Force’s riverfront development master plan and implementation, one of four spending categories for the fund. Nine projects were proposed and approved by City Council last month, including a feasibility study to examine riverfront development.
Task force members wrote that incorporating Headwaters Junction into a mixed-use development “should not be overlooked. The consulting firm (performing a feasibility study) should give Headwaters Junction its due diligence when developing a vision for our riverfront and North River.”
John Urbahns, community development director, said the team determined that the plan for Headwaters Junction provided a unique opportunity and should be given more consideration. The $500,000 riverfront study will investigate the best use for property around the city’s rivers, including the north river property.
“I’m completely open to changes,” explained Lynch. “There are certain caveats of the plan, but at the end of the day visitor experience is the most important thing.”
One caveat is the venue’s location on the north river property. Lynch said the tie-in with the rivers and downtown is an important feature that should remain. But the entire property is about 37 acres, said Dan Wire, a member of the team that developed the riverfront proposal. Wire, a retired teacher and a self-proclaimed river advocate, believes there’s a misconception that Headwaters Junction would take up the entire property, but in reality it could be just one acre.
“Some people don’t understand that it could be added value to whatever else is there. It would be the whipped cream on the ice cream sundae,” Wire said.
Lynch said the locomotive is a part of the city’s history and it can’t be enjoyed by the community in it’s current location, in a warehouse about five miles east of New Haven.
“There’s a certain type of magic that this thing inspires,” he said of No. 765.
Headwaters Junction Speaks to Potential of Downtown
Stephen Bailey, Downtown Improvement District
After researching the details, I hope that this project sees the light of day now that Legacy Fort Wayne has invested an interest in the project. The railroad was a huge part of Fort Wayne’s identity. The elevated railways that we now see above Clinton Street and Calhoun Street were built to help alleviate traffic that would backup daily as a result of the number of railcars passing through downtown Fort Wayne. Headwaters Junction is the key to unearthing the beautiful history of downtown Fort Wayne and connecting it hand in hand with its future.
I ask Kelly to supply me with some numbers about what he sees when he takes No. 765 out on the rail for the public to see. He tells me that in 2009, 30,000 people bought a ticket in 4 days with a total of 50,000 tickets sold in 16 days of operating the train. Represented in those numbers are people from all 50 states and from 7 countries. Can you imagine the economical impact Headwaters Junction could have on downtown Fort Wayne?
Once I saw the train for myself, I was able to understand its appeal. The No. 765 Engine is big and bold yet friendly. It would be hard not to stop and stare as it passes by. Trying to understand why No. 765 isn’t living and breathing in downtown Fort Wayne, Kelly tells me that, “this is like Fort Wayne having the world’s most famous animals with no zoo to put them in.” He goes on to say that he “spent the bulk of my life experiencing what this attraction does to every town that it travels to. It is not a passive, static experience. It is a sensory experience. You can see it, taste it, and smell it. The ground shakes when it goes by. It is a magnet attraction. Most people that see it for the first time say that it looks like something out of a movie.”
Headwaters Junction not only speaks to the potential of downtown but it speaks to the hearts of so many dedicated, intelligent, free-thinking individuals striving to create the downtown Fort Wayne that they want to experience. Now that the Legacy Fund has taken note, the possibilities connected to Headwaters Junction could not only put downtown Fort Wayne back on the map, it could also inspire an entire generation. Which one is more important is for you to decide; maybe it’s both.
High Stakes on the Riverfront
Connie Haus-Zuber, Fort Wayne Magazine
“Right now, Fort Wayne and the entire region have a chance to do something right, to capitalize on the rivers that have been our bane and blessing since time immemorial.
A pent up demand for access to our rivers has joined increased awareness of how cool riverfront places are in other cities.
A light really is shining at the other end of the tunnel through which the city will travel as it decides how to use the Legacy fund for what everyone is calling a “bold and transformative” riverfront project. And it really is a train.
“It’s No. 765, the 1944-Berkshire steam locomotive that the city saved in 1963 and put on display in Lawton Park after it pulled the first rain across the elevation that opened up development of the city’s north side and triggered Fort Wayne’s boldest amd most transformative economic boom to date.”
No. 765 hasn’t been on display at Lawton Park since 1974, though. Thanks to the skill and dedicated hard work of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, it has been put back on the rails where time and again it demonstrates its star power, attracting thousands to buy tickets for its excursions and tens of thousands to watch on its way.
Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society volunteer and spokesman Kelly Lynch first suggested bringing No. 765 back home to downtown from its current domicile in the country east of New Haven as early as 2006. Even though the historic freight station building at Clinton and Fourth Street that could have been part of what Lynch calls Headwaters Junction is gone, using the steam engine as an attraction to build traffic for the retail, restaurant, residential, recreation, and entertainment businesses that could be developed there is still an idea with currency. It got the attention of the Legacy Fort Wayne Downtown and Riverfront Development Champion Team, and it was one of the top three projects in public online voting the Legacy task force used.
The Champion Team report says “the Headwaters Junction proposal proved to be big, bold, and transformational. Incorporating this feature within a mixed-use development should not be overlooked.”
Lynch and all of No. 765′s fans are waiting eagerly for the next steps.
The newly dedicated Martin Luther King Jr. bridge on Clinton Street over the St. Mary’s is a grand gateway to the heart of downtown and is a beautiful structure with its wide walkways, soaring superstructure, and fun colorful light shows at night.
No. 765 would look so good steaming past it.
[Former Mayor] Graham Richard says the city is facing a leadership challenge today, the same challenge it had to answer to build Harrison Square.
“It’s the same question for any other multimillion dollar development,” he said. “Where will the leadership come from? The public or private sector? Who will take the lead to move vision to action?”
Thinking Big Inspired by Historic Locomotive
Jennifer Dodds Fox, Fort Wayne Magazine
“The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society Inc has an impressive record of thinking big – and the historic city steam locomotive No. 765 is a colossal big and perfect focus for the society’s energies.
The society has been at work for 40 years, with its mission growing from a cosmetic renovation of the engine long on display in Lawton Park to a nearly million-dollar restoration that required 15,000 volunteer hours and put the locomotive back in service in 1979.
This summer’s schedule will have No. 765 putting another 4,000 miles in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania (crossing Illinois and Indiana between trips) operating employee trains for Norfolk Southern Railway, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It is one of the last vintage steam locomotives in operation in the world, and it attracts crowds whenever it runs.
“One thing we’re often reminded of is that we’ll have 40,000 people visit us in Iowa or Cleveland, but the engine largely remains unknown at home for a variety of reasons, one being that it’s kept in a garage near the state line,” said Kelly Lynch, of the society. “For being such a visible and attractive part of Fort Wayne’s growth, it definitely deserves to be discovered by more.”
And it just might be.
“The popular downtown redevelopment concept known as Headwaters Junction – which would feature the 765 in a mixed use attraction at North River – has been advanced by the Legacy Fort Wayne task force for further consideration by the mayor and city council.”
By Doug Leduc, Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
Supporters of a proposed railroad-themed, mixed-use development near downtown Fort Wayne plan to use the delay in the determination of how the city should spend $77 million in City Light lease and community trust funds to hone the details of their proposal.“It gives everyone who’s vying for certain opportunities time to flesh out what they want to do,” said Kelly Lynch, project manager for Headwaters Junction.
Based on feedback on the city’s Legacy website, Headwaters Junction, which would showcase the Nickel Plate Railroad steam locomotive No. 765, was one of the most popular proposals. Of some 900 ideas proposed to the task force, it also made the short list of 24 the task force said last August were worthy of further consideration.
But subjects like the development of Fort Wayne’s riverfront have been discussed for decades, Lynch noted. “I think people should ask not just what should happen, but why hasn’t it happened already?”
Future focus: Fort Wayne task force narrows list of projects that could receive funding from light lease agreement
By Doug Leduc, Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
A task force of 15 volunteers has evaluated nearly 1,000 suggestions for projects and initiatives that could help shape Fort Wayne’s future.
Members have narrowed that number down to 24 they believe could get the most bang out of a $77-million financial legacy the city has coming.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry appointed the Legacy Fort Wayne task force to gather and evaluate the suggestions. It is now pulling together any additional information needed to review the ideas it tagged for further consideration.
The task force evaluated suggestions from the public for use of the money. It has been judging them against a set of four guiding principles on an evaluation form it developed for the review process:
• Funds directly benefit the people of Fort Wayne;
• Considers previously adopted community plans;
• Long-term best interests of the community; and
• Community priority impact areas.
Kelly Lynch, project manager for Headwaters Junction, said plans for the mixed-use gateway and downtown attraction project showcasing the Nickel Plate Railroad steam locomotive No. 765 at the North River property predate the legacy request for proposals and fit with previous community planning.
“A lot of people see this as an opportunity to further legitimize the concept,” he said. “I was told by people involved in the (legacy) project it was one of the bold and visionary ideas submitted.”
“Seed money for the development of the project — for its planning and implementation and design — would take it to the next level, which is more than just me armed with a 50-page conceptual plan,” Lynch said. “There are a lot of doors that could still be opened.”
Steam engine vision shared at last month’s Northwest Area Partnership meeting | Old locomotive would be center of North River area.
By Rosie O’Grady, The News Sentinel
Whenever reading a good book, did you ever peek at the last few pages to see how it ends? That’s what I will do right now. Our guest speaker, Kelly Lynch, had such an awesome presentation and a vision that we have all been waiting for, and that’s the return of rail to our city.
Lynch, the director of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, described his vision of returning the Nickel Plate Railroad steam locomotive
No. 765 to the North River site (former OmniSource property) at Fourth and Clinton streets, which is across Clinton Street from the engine’s resting place in Lawton Park from 1963 to 1974. The engine since has been rebuilt. There have been 50,000 seasonal visitors, and they come from 50 states and seven countries in only 16 days of (No. 765′s excursions) operation.
What a plus this would be for our city to once again have the old locomotive in its own roundhouse with rail system and possibly a canal, splashpad, park or performance area at that now-vacant North River site. Called Headwaters Junction, it (the proposed development) would become a centerpiece to the cultural corridor that would establish Fort Wayne as a forward-thinking place with vision and character.
It would become a magnet for downtown and serve as a connection for the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Science Central, Headwaters Park, Rivergreenway and Wells Street corridor. It could serve area business and stimulate industrial growth with its “short rail” system; create apprenticeships; and boost civic pride, education outreach, special events, entertainment, recreation and learning in a vivid, hands-on setting.
This vision would and could be something for everyone, and the vision seems endless. I’m hoping all the partnerships will invite Lynch to hear about returning rail to our city again.
By Doug Leduc, Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
The proposal was the third most popular suggestion from the public for use of a $77-million financial legacy the city has coming: $38.2 million already held in a community trust fund and $39.2 million that will be paid out over 15 years, after an initial lump-sum payment of $5 million, as a result of the settlement of Fort Wayne’s 35-year-old City Light lease with Indiana Michigan Power.
“There’s a lot of energy behind it with a lot of people in the community,” said John Urbahns, Fort Wayne’s director of community development.
The Headwaters Junction proposal would provide an opportunity for the kind of mixed-use retail and residential development the city has come close to undertaking at the North River property in the past.
“We’ve said all along this is a very key property … It’s the primary gateway to downtown along the river and has a lot of development opportunity,” Urbahns said. “We’re very interested in the development of any vacant parcel in the city and we’re very interested in the future development of this property.”
Members of the Fort Wayne Railroad History Society and other residents interested in moving forward with Headwaters Junction have sought input on the project and support for it from a number of community groups, and been met with some success.
The project has been endorsed by the Downtown Improvement District, Fort Wayne Trails, Friends of the Rivers, Friends of the Parks and Arts United. Other groups supporting it include the Wells Street Business Association, Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana and the Bloomingdale, Nebraska and Northside neighborhood associations.
Headwaters Junction Revisited | Kelly Lynch’s ambitious revitalization project once again in the spotlight.
By Michael Summers, Fort Wayne Reader
“Kelly Lynch puts a lot of faith in the visceral power of the old locomotives — he’s seen them work their magic. One of the centerpieces of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society is the 765 locomotive, which occasionally tours the country. On a trip last September, the 765 pulled into Payne, Ohio to “top off the tender.” “We use water and coal to make steam, and we got approval from the town of Payne to use one of their fire hydrants,” Lynch says. “Word spread that a steam locomotive was going to stop in town. These people didn’t know where it was coming from, the history, even its number. All they knew was this Tyrannosaurs Rex was going to roll into town. We pulled into town with the crew, and started rolling out the fire hoses. They were marching kids out of school, all lined up on the street, and when they heard the locomotive, the reaction was… it was like listening to kids on a roller coaster. It didn’t matter it was 66 years old, the theatrical machine was there.”
Yet however enthusiastic and positive Lynch gets about his subject, there’s a part of him that seems a little ambivalent about Headwaters Junction becoming involved in the Community Trust/Light Lease Settlement discussion. He’s grateful for the support, grateful that so many people seem so interested, but as we said above, Lynch has been researching and developing Headwaters Junction for years. As anyone who has seen his proposal can attest, it’s not some “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…” idea thrown out on a whim.
And perhaps more importantly, he worries about it being politicized. It’s a valid concern — discussion on what to do with the Community Trust/Light Lease Settlement funds has already generated some controversy. Critics argue that if the money needs to be spent — and they’re not at all sure it does — it should be put towards something like the ongoing combined sewer overflow project; not glamorous, perhaps, but something that needs to be done.
So Lynch hopes people won’t dismiss Headwaters Junction out of hand, and says that some of the negative comments he’s heard have been a little confusing. “Part of what I’ve discovered in the past year is that we are a city and a region of self-fulfilling prophecies,” he says. “That can be good or bad. I hear, ‘oh, Fort Wayne will never be this or that…’ Well, yes, with that attitude, it never is going to change. But why settle for that? Why can’t we do better?”
By Michael Summers, Fort Wayne Reader
“Headwaters Junction is a $15 million project that would basically transform the “North River” property — the slab of land currently belonging to Calhoun Investments with Clinton on the east, 4th Street to the south, Harrison to the west, and 6th Street on the north — into an area based on Fort Wayne’s transportation heritage. The proposal details a recreation of a turn-of-the-century rail yard with a working train that would not only offer everyday transportation but would be available for special excursions. The whole area would have a turn-of-the-century feel, and offer space for special events and other attractions. There’s even mention of a jazz-themed restaurant in there.
And, on top of all that, Headwaters Junction can also serve a practical function. “The rail is also a short line carrier,” Lynch says. “It’s a freight line. Having a short line operator serving area industry is a major incentive for people who want to locate their businesses in, for example, the Coliseum industrial park. 20 cars a week — for a little guy you could attract all sorts of new businesses.”
Lynch finishes: “There are so many facets and so many possibilities that it’s hard to condense it.”
Kevin Leininger, The News Sentinel
“(Headwaters Junction) is a pretty big project, but the Railroad Historical Society has some credibility because it has raised funds (in the past),” Urbahns said. “The project is creating quite a buzz.”
Craig Leonard, a Bluffton-based architect who specializes in historic structures and is active with preservation group ARCH, said transportation-themed attractions can be successful, as evidenced by a museum dedicated to the Wabash and Erie Canal in Delphi.
Lynch said his project would require only about one-third of the 29-acre site surrounding the depot. The rest would be available for other developments – developments that could be enhanced by a successful “Headwaters Junction,” Lynch said.”