The Growing Beauty Of Downtown

Whether on our way to work or stopping at a downtown restaurant for a bite, most of us have passed the large flowerpots on Calhoun Street. These flowerpots shouldn’t be taken for granted; they are a significant, and surprisingly expensive, part of downtown beautification.

On Feb. 2, Fort Wayne leaders and residents alike gathered together at the first annual Groundhog Open 18-hole mini-golf tournament to support the city of Fort Wayne and raise $20,000 to add and maintain flowerpots along Calhoun Street.

Sixty flowerpots are located on only two blocks on Calhoun between Berry Street and Washington Boulevard. To buy the pot, plant and maintain the flowers for a year is about $1,000 per pot. Organizers of the Groundhog Open, the Allen County Economic Development Alliance and the Downtown Improvement District, expect to be able to add an additional 20 flowerpots downtown.

The planters were established by the city as part of the 2009-2010 renovations of Calhoun Street and are maintained by the Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Department, with support from the Downtown Improvement District.

Richard Davis, president of the Downtown Improvement District, said the Groundhog Open was the first event of its kind to reach out to stakeholders in the community.

“We are also involved with the property owners on a daily basis, but we haven’t reached out to them this much. Karl Bandemer came up with this innovative way of drawing in the downtown business community and getting them to do a fun thing while also to helping us support the planter program,” Davis said.

Karl Bandemer, of the Economic Development Alliance, said while flowerpots may not seem that important, they are an integral part of downtown Fort Wayne because they continue to make the city beautiful no matter the season.

“We always get positive feedback on those flowerpots, which are changed four times a year,” he said. “There have been requests for more flowerpots in front of businesses, and we hope to install some along Wayne, Berry or Harrison where there is more foot traffic. There is no shortage of places to put flowerpots. But if we can continue the Groundhog Open, we can grow the event and downtown Fort Wayne.”

With tight budgets, it can be difficult to find the money for flowers for downtown, but Bandemer said that is exactly why the Economic Development Alliance focuses on community involvement projects and creative ways of raising money.

Frank Suarez, director of public information for the city of Fort Wayne, said the city partners with community organizations and with endowments that take care of certain parts of the city.

“Currently, there is an endowment that takes care of the plants, shrubs and trees in Freimann Square,” he said.

The city has established two new welcoming signs downtown, one on the Clinton Street overpass, between Main and Superior streets, and another on Lafayette Street.

Suarez said the city hopes to add more at various underpasses in Fort Wayne.

In addition to signs, the city of Fort Wayne made large strides in 2011 with the development of two large downtown housing projects: the Harrison Project and the Anthony Wayne building.

In addition to signs, the City of Fort Wayne made large strides in 2011 with the development of two large downtown housing projects including the Harrison Project and the Anthony Wayne Building.

The 2012 approved budget for Fort Wayne’s division of Community Development, including redevelopment and community development projects, is $4.8 million, decreasing only 1 percent since 2011.

But for 2012, the city has big plans for downtown improvement.

John Urbahns, director of the division of community development for the City of Fort Wayne, said the city has just developed a Gateway Plan expanding the welcoming signage to Jefferson Boulevard and Columbia Street.

“Downtown is going to continue to be a focus for the teams that have been created for downtown development through the Legacy Fund,” he said.

Urbahns said the Legacy Fort Wayne Task Force has a champion team focusing on development downtown and offers recommendations on how to use funding for proposed projects.

Sharon Feasel, community development manager for the City of Fort Wayne, said while many big projects such as the Anthony Wayne Building construction may take more time, there are small projects the city continues to work on such as dressing up pedestrian areas.

While smaller projects such as welcome signs and pedestrian improvements are essential to development downtown, recently larger projects such as the opening of Parkview Field in 2009 have received national recognition.

Last month, Parkview Field in Fort Wayne was honored as one of the top baseball parks in the nation.

The ballpark has become a staple for spring and summer evenings for not just baseball games, but a multitude of community events that have attracted thousands back to downtown Fort Wayne.

“We have high standards for Fort Wayne and that makes a big difference. Downtown has raises the bar,” Feasel said.

So whether the project includes working on flowerpots or signs, downtown Fort Wayne continues to beautify and expand with the support of the community, downtown businesses and organization, and the City of Fort Wayne.


Categories: DID Downtown Improvement District, Goverment, Harrison Square, Housing, Legacy Fund, Office Space, Parkview Field, Shopping & Dining

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