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Welcome back! Lots to cover this week, from demo on North Harrison, the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority's surprising financial turnaround, local art at the NBA All-Star Weekend, and, of course, a deep dive into Downtown Fort Wayne's top complaint: parking. Plus, planning the future of Fort Wayne, and a list of our top things to do this week around town. But first:
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This month: our newsletter is brought to you by Visit Fort Wayne. Check out our Spotlight on their Tourism Master Plan this week, outlining priorities for Fort Wayne's future, from increasing accessibility to boosting the local music scene, nightlife, transportation and more!
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Now, let's get started!
A few quick shoutouts from our readers.
"Discover non-traditional education options and methods at the Homeschool and Education Options Expo this Friday-Saturday at 1025 Vance Ave. It offers a variety of workshops to empower and encourage families and education entrepreneurs seeking alternative education pathways for children!" - Jill Haskins
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Does downtown Fort Wayne really need more parking?
Earlier this month, the city announced the opening of a new 390-space parking garage Downtown: the STAR Bank garage at 222 W. Berry Street. The question of Downtown parking in Fort Wayne is a perennial conversation, and, according to Downtown Fort Wayne, it's the most common complaint they receive from residents. Here's what you need to know:
- Downtown Fort Wayne currently has more than 5,000 parking spaces available for public use, in addition to private parking options (here's a recent map from Visit Fort Wayne).
- The city has actually seen a net increase of more than 1,200 parking spaces since 2021 – not including the nearly 400 in the new STAR garage. "Now, we’ve certainly added a lot of residents, visitors, employees, too," Joe Giant, Redevelopment Manager at the City of Fort Wayne, told The Local last year. "But despite the additional users, it’s still a net increase."
- Many of these spaces are in parking garages rather than metered street parking or surface lots. Garage parking can be less immediately visible than these other forms, which could contribute to the perception of limited spaces in the city.
- Garages, like meters, also usually charge a small fee for storing your car. The STAR garage will charge $1 per hour (after the first 15 minutes), with a maximum charge of $8 per day. This is in line with general rates in other garages Downtown, and is much lower than rates for comparable parking in larger cities.
Why it matters
As Downtown Fort Wayne develops, people want to spend more time there. Complaints about a lack of parking indicate a desire for options to make this possible. But the problem of parking is much more complicated than it appears.
We explore the issue more in our premium newsletter, available with a 30-day free trial.
- City starts Pepsi site demo, reviews proposals. You might remember: the city wants to develop 6.5 acres on North Harrison Street, just north of Downtown. The site is currently occupied by a former Pepsi bottling plant – but not for long. Demolition has begun, and officials are reviewing nine proposals for the future of the site, including a controversial plan from Eric Doden's DOMO corporation, which we covered extensively when it was announced late last year.
- Phresh Laundry hangs at NBA All-Star Weekend. This weekend, when the NBA All-Star game comes to Indianapolis, attendees will encounter a series titled "Pace Yourself," by Fort Wayne artist Theoplis Smith III, known as Phresh Laundry. Smith says he was invited by curators Gang Gang to hang his work in one of the event hubs, known as The Suite 10, from Feb. 16-18.
Plus: the ACLU sues the county, TRAA finishes 2023 in the black, zero waste options and more. Read about these local stories in our premium newsletter.
What do visitors and residents want to see in Fort Wayne’s future?*
We share a preview of findings based on recent research by Visit Fort Wayne.
Fort Wayne and Allen County are growing fast. As local leaders plan for the future, one way they’re taking resident and visitor opinions into account is through Visit Fort Wayne’s new “Tourism Master Plan.”
We spoke with VFW's Director of Destination Development & Communications Jessa Campbell, and here's what you need to know:
- About the research: Since January 2023, VFW has worked with consultants to host about 110 conversations with stakeholders and conduct surveys of 2,000 Allen County residents and 600 visitors, on top of additional workshops and steering committees – all to boil down what types of goals and amenities residents and visitors want.
- This resulted in: a 200-page Tourism Master Plan, which includes 20 goals to be addressed in the next 10 years (divided into three tiers of priorities: Tier 1 in the next 1-2 years; Tier 2 in 3-5 years and Tier 3 in 6-10 years.) See an overview of the report here. (It’s being released to the public today at an 8:30 a.m. press conference.)
- So what are the top priorities? The most-pressing Tier 1 goals are: enhancing Fort Wayne’s 1) accessibility, 2) music economy and 3) sports scene, as well as 4) addressing its labor shortage in the hospitality industry.
Why it matters
- Tourism boosts the economy. Along with improving Allen County for locals, the Tourism Master Plan seeks to increase visitors (and visitor spending) in Fort Wayne, which has a “huge economic impact locally," Campbell says. Just how much? Currently, Fort Wayne sees about 8.8M visitors annually who bring about $995M dollars into the local economy, saving Allen County households in taxes.
- Fort Wayne could become known for "accessibility." And that's an opportunity, too. In fact, a recent BBC report (featuring Fort Wayne) says, when it comes to travel, people with disabilities are "the largest underserved minority in the country” and could represent “billions in untapped revenue.” Not to mention: serving this population ultimately makes the city more inclusive for everyone.
- It brings leaders together around important goals. Along with accessibility, two goals that stand out to us in the Master Plan are: 1) transportation and 2) nightlife (both listed as Tier 2 priorities). These topics keep coming up in our reporting, and if local leaders rally around them, progress might happen. As for transportation, Campbell says: “I imagine some work will happen within the next year. If Citilink needs support talking with the city or state on funding, we'll look at how we can support that effort.” That's a great start!
So what's next?
- This spring: VFW is working with partners to advocate for accessible practices in Fort Wayne and conduct an accessibility audit, which involves a community wide assessment to provide recommendations and guidance on policies, development, needs and more. As part of this, it’s bringing influencer John Morris to town who runs the world's largest accessible travel website.
- Campbell says: “In addition to speaking at the first Hospitality and Tourism Awards in May, John is going to assess how accessible Fort Wayne is, as a destination, and create content around his experience. While he is wheelchair-bound, one of his big messages is that accessibility is not just for people with disabilities; it’s also better for many populations, from aging adults to young parents with strollers.”
- Stay tuned for: more information about Morris’s visit and Fort Wayne’s first Tourism and Hospitality Awards in May!
*This post is sponsored by Visit Fort Wayne.
- Tour: the old Billy's Dugout location (across from Bravas) that's being turned into an exciting new venture! Stop by between 4-7 p.m. on Valentine's Day for an Open House with tours and swag!
- Warm up: at the ninth annual Weather the Fort, a free all-ages event on the Landing Feb. 17 from 3-8 p.m.
- Listen: to three local writers and poets (Erica Anderson-Senter, Sarah Sandman, and Jason Beer) read from their work at The B-Side at One Lucky Guitar. Thursday, Feb. 15, doors open at 7. Advance tickets required.
What else? We recommend more things to do in our premium newsletter. Try it out with a 30-day free trial.
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-Ryan Schnurr (filling in for Kara and Mike)