Community Conversation Shaped Outcomes, Next Steps Detailed to Carry Ideas Forward
Fort Wayne, Ind. – Mayor Tom Henry and members of the Legacy Fort Wayne Task Force today marked the conclusion of the communitywide initiative to guide decision making about the future of the Fort Wayne Community Trust and City Light Lease Settlement funds with the formal presentation of the group’s final recommendations.
As part of the celebratory event, the Mayor shared highlights of the report and outlined his plan to carry those concepts forward. He also expressed his appreciation to the 15-member advisory committee for its year of dedicated service.
“Legacy Fort Wayne asked each of us to look to the future, to think long term, to be bold,” said Mayor Henry. “As a community, we took that challenge to heart. We concentrated our priorities into three big ideas: our economic vitality, our downtown and our riverfronts, and our youth. Each of these areas represents a unique opportunity to enhance Fort Wayne and better position us for growth. Each reflects our collective determination to build on our investments, build on our strengths and build on the promise of tomorrow. Each has the potential to be a real and true legacy.”
The report represents the deliberative work of the Task Force, distilling and integrating the extensive public input gathered during Legacy Fort Wayne’s community-engagement phase. The results have been framed by the guiding principles that were adopted by the group early in the process. As the touchstone for its efforts, the principles established a common vision and unified purpose for the funds, focusing on the long-term best interests of the community, catalytic investment and the leveraging of additional resources.
The document delineates four, high-level recommendations that the Task Force believes have the potential for transformative community impact. It is important to note that due to the magnitude of the ideas, each will require significant research and refinement before they can be advanced.
The Legacy Fort Wayne Task Force recommendations, along with amplifying concepts, are as follows:
1. Core Economic Investments to secure a solid economic foundation for Fort Wayne’s
future, while aligning with and advancing the Fort Wayne economic strategy:
a. Business Attraction/Retention and Job Creation, including research and development Centers of Excellence and workforce development/talent creation; and
b. Strategic Infrastructure investments that could encompass passenger rail, pedestrian and bike infrastructure and gateway enhancements.
2. Downtown and Riverfront Development to develop and improve two of Fort Wayne’s
a. Catalytic Downtown Development Incentives addresses the need for both public and private dollars working together to create and encourage continued development in the city center through possibilities such as: live/work space development, a post-secondary education presence downtown, development incentives, downtown transit, and downtown commercial development;
b. Riverfront Development in the downtown blends and leverages two of the city’s premier attributes, fostering new synergies for livability and economic growth; and
c. Arts and Culture accents the correlation between a thriving arts and cultural environment and economic vitality. Suggested ideas to promote the presence of these two elements downtown are: youth arts programming, innovative art and technology, and public art.
3. Youth/Prep Sports Initiative builds on our existing strengths to make Fort Wayne a
first-choice destination for youth/prep sports:
a. World-class Youth/Prep Sports puts the spotlight on this underexploited tourism, hospitality and economic resource;
b. Youth/Prep Sports Facility Development keys off of the overarching theme by assessing the key physical components necessary to realizing this option; and
c. Community Access speaks to the core tenet of openness supporting this point.
4. Investment of Trust Fund and Light Lease Settlement dollars specifies the continuation and modification of the Fort Wayne Community Trust, or the creation of a similar entity, to ensure the protection and strategic investment of Legacy Fort Wayne funds.
To propel the Legacy Fort Wayne recommendations to the next level, Mayor Henry spelled out a preliminary horizon plan. The Mayor will appoint Legacy Champion Teams in the first three recommendation areas. The teams will be composed of diverse groups of community leaders and subject-matter experts. Each team will be asked to explore its designated recommendation in full, with the assistance of City of Fort Wayne staff. The goal will be to determine feasibility, needs and resources, and to develop an action plan or other appropriate proposal. Sub-teams may also be formed for some of the individual concepts. The groups will be announced in the new year.
The centerpiece of Legacy Fort Wayne has been community involvement. More than a dozen different methods, both traditional and digital, were used to engage and collect the suggestions of the public, including: seven open public forums, five specific-audience meetings, group proposals, Meetups, Feedback Fort Wayne, the website’s Idea Form, telephone calls, e-mails, U.S. Mail, hand delivery, Facebook, 311 – One Call To City Hall, and the Mayor’s Night In. The process stimulated thousands of discussions and comments with nearly 900 ideas and proposals being formally submitted.
The work of the Task Force involved taking an intensive look at the status of the city. The group examined community resources, existing plans and ongoing leadership initiatives to ensure an accurate understanding of Fort Wayne, its challenges, assets and place in the region. It then orchestrated and joined in the month-long community conversation about Legacy Fort Wayne. This multifaceted approach provided a solid context for its efforts.
The Task Force then spent several months reviewing, scoring and narrowing the numerous ideas and proposals gathered from the public. They drilled deeply into the public input and debated the core concepts it contained and how it might be molded to create the kind of bold and catalytic impact that was sought. Ultimately, a focused list comprising a limited number of strategic options was defined and translated into the final report.
On behalf of the people of Fort Wayne, Mayor Henry expressed gratitude to the members of Legacy Fort Wayne Task Force for their leadership role in this initiative. He recognized the exceptional contributions of:
• Quinton Dixie, Associate Professor, IPFW; co-chair
• James Vann, Board Chairman, Rea Magnet Wire Co.; co-chair
• Marty Bender, Fort Wayne City Councilman at-Large
• Terrell Bond Jr., Chief Medical Officer, Neighborhood Health Clinics, Inc.
• Jennifer Callison, Vice President, Mike Thomas Associates/F.C. Tucker
• James Cook, Northeast Indiana Regional President, Chase Bank
• David Corcoran, Senior Product Manager, Symantec
• Meg Distler, Executive Director, St. Joseph Community Health Foundation
• Joseph Dorko, Chief Executive Officer, Lutheran Health Network
• Martin Fisher, Executive Director, Science Central
• Cathy Hawks, Music Director, The Chapel
• Angela Hughes, General Counsel, Franklin Electric
• Timothy Pape, Fort Wayne City Councilman; Partner at Carson Boxberger LLP
• Wendy Robinson, Superintendent, Fort Wayne Community Schools
• Marshall White, Musical Director, Unity Performing Arts Foundation
“The work of Legacy Fort Wayne has been extraordinary,” emphasized Mayor Henry. “I salute the members of the Task Force and the entire city for getting involved in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Fort Wayne Community Trust and City Light Lease Settlement funds are a community treasure. They are the key to transformative change. Now we have a roadmap. It’s time to get going. It’s time to start building our stronger, more vibrant future.”
The over $75 million Legacy Fort Wayne funds come from two sources: 1) the $39.2 million City Light Lease Settlement, reached between the City of Fort Wayne and Indiana Michigan Power; and 2) the approximately $36 million Fort Wayne Community Trust, established by the City 35 years ago using a portion of the annual Light Lease payments.
Information about Legacy Fort Wayne and the recommendations of the Task Force can be found online at www.LegacyFortWayne.org.
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