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RIVER STUDY: Fort Wayne looks into its downtown rivers

February 13, 2013

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Fort Wayne is launching its first comprehensive study of the city's three downtown rivers as part of an effort to spur development along the waterways.

Mayor Tom Henry said Tuesday the study will examine environmental issues, flooding, navigation and recreation uses along the St. Joseph, St. Marys and Maumee rivers. The northeastern Indiana city was founded as a military fort in 1794 along the confluence of those three rivers.

Numerous studies have urged city officials to take better advantage of the city's rivers, but none has looked at how to use the waterways, whether they can be used and what their use might mean for development.

The rivers' tendency to flood and existing flood protection structures complicate potential uses. Parks, businesses and marshy areas could also limit riverfront use.

Fort Wayne has set aside up to $500,000 for the study. City spokesman John Perlich said it will include a hydrology assessment looking at river levels, currents, flooding and storm water management.

"Our goal is for the study to provide the road map to world-class investment," Henry said.

John Urbahns, Fort Wayne's director of community development, said the study will include assessments of land use, engineering and infrastructure investment, watershed issues, trail connectivity, river access, urban design guidelines, retail, entertainment and housing.

"This will help guide us through the next decade of projects," he said. "It's going to be a very involved public engagement process."

The proposals from potential consultants to conduct the study are due April 12. The city hopes to award a contract by the end of summer.

The Journal Gazette and WANE-TV report the study is expected to take up to 18 months, meaning it might be 2015 before any projects suggested by the study could begin.

City Councilman Tom Smith said riverfront development has been discussed for decades, but the study could become the basis for development in Fort Wayne for the decades ahead.

"We're going to find out what we can and cannot do," he said.

The study is being funded by the city's Legacy Fund, which was created from the lease and sale of Fort Wayne's old electric utility. Committees spent two years creating goals and projects for the $47 million on hand. Another $28 million will enter the fund over the next 12 years.

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