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"You Can't Rush Good Things"

Near the end of Legacy Fort Wayne’s Task Force project, Headwaters Junction was one of nearly a dozen concepts to advance with the Legacy Task Force, but the only concept “supported by [community] plans, had a light level of community support, and had catalytic potential,” and a recent article in the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly surmises the progress of the task force and how Headwaters Junction may play a role in the future downtown development.

The exacting and thoughtful process could be summed up by Headwaters Junction’s project manager Kelly Lynch below: “You can’t rush good things.”

“When a call went out to the community for ideas on projects and initiatives that could help shape Fort Wayne’s future, the task force of 15 volunteers charged with evaluating them was seeking suggestions, not business plans.

But it became clear that choosing winners from the 1,000 ideas submitted earlier this year would be impossible without the kind of information normally found in a business plan. So members of the Legacy Fort Wayne task force, who were appointed by Mayor Tom Henry to make recommendations for how the city should best put to use a $77-million settlement with Indiana Michigan Power, decided to recommend broader concepts that combine surviving proposals from the months-long winnowing-down process.

Those concepts — the details of which aren’t finalized yet — are: downtown and rivers development; youth and prep sports initiatives; and core economic investments. But even though the task force identified three key areas for investment, much work remains before the city can begin using the settlement money…

…Several community organizations submitted group proposals in an acknowledgment that support for one project could improve the chances for a second project’s success.

For example, people seeking support for a project to clean Fort Wayne’s rivers also support a Headwaters Junction proposal for mixed-use retail and residential development at the North River property at the corner of Fourth and Clinton streets.

The proposed project would showcase the Nickel Plate Railroad steam locomotive No. 765 — a well-established national attraction restored by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society — and the Headwaters Junction proposal said it would combine “river, rail and trail in a colorful, inviting public space for recreational, social, artistic, educational and commercial activities.”

“One of the things we proposed in a joint proposal was that there be a riverfront commission established, much in the same way that there was a commission for Headwaters Park,” said Kelly Lynch, who teaches photography at Huntington University and serves as communications director for the historical society.

The Headwaters Junction proposal may be among the ideas mentioned in the task force’s downtown and rivers development recommendations.

“When you talk about riverfront development, obviously North River plays a substantial role in that and it would impact downtown,” Lynch said. “There’s been a lot of discussion to create multiple anchors — downtown-centered and north … They’re leaving it up to the mayor’s office to see what fits within those concepts.”

For some organizations that thought the task force might make a funding decision based entirely on the strength of the proposals they submitted, waiting for further analysis is “kind of like trying to corral horses at the derby after the starter gun has gone off,” he said. “Personally, I don’t have too many expectations; I just know that you can’t rush good things.”