5 Questions With...

John Urbahns & Kirk Moriarty of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
Mar 1, 2016
Deborah C. Gerbers
Steve Vorderman
5 Questions With...

It’s no secret that downtown Fort Wayne is growing with new restaurants, trendy shops and exciting real estate opportunities everywhere. Greater Fort Wayne Inc. is involved with many of the new projects happening downtown. John Urbahns, executive vice president of economic development, and Kirk Moriarty, director of business development, gave us the scoop.

Q1: What’s happening in downtown Fort Wayne right now?

Urbahns: There are a lot of things going on downtown from a residential perspective. At CityScape Flats right across from the ballpark, there are 175 units under construction and just last week the Skyline Tower project was announced, which will have 124 residential units in 10 stories, plus a floor for office space and a lower level for retail space. Between those two, you’re talking about a lot of momentum. Our goal is to have 2,000 additional housing units in the next 10 years, which amounts to around 200 new units per year. We have a number of projects in the pipeline that we hope will move forward. 

Q2: What’s the draw to downtown? Why do people want to live there? 

Urbahns: In addition to a demand for downtown living options, there is a lot of activity downtown. We have seen over $250 million in projects happening as a result of Parkview Field. People are interested in a new product and in new opportunities. The Landing is another opportunity we’re interested in as a mixed-use project and we are in final discussions with developers. Residents want to get back to an urban environment, which has translated into seeing more people downtown and with families moving into nearby West Central and Williams Woodland neighborhoods. 

Moriarty: People will come downtown because it’s grown exponentially and will continue to grow. Plainly, downtown is becoming a very attractive and interesting place to live, work and play. Last October, we invited the community to take part in a two-way dialogue about a blueprint plan and to also look ahead. Based on numbers and interest alone, that is one of many examples of people’s demonstrated enthusiasm to come downtown. 

Q3: How do you anticipate these downtown residential projects impacting the city of Fort Wayne?

Urbahns: Our biggest goal is that investment leads to more investment. Public projects early on showed that the community cares about downtown and wants it to thrive, leading to additional private investment. We want to see continued investment and continued vibrancy downtown. 

Moriarty: We are seeing more enthusiasm and more inquiries about a host of different opportunities, both commercial and residential. If that’s a barometer then I think we’re on a very upward growth scale. 

Urbahns: In addition, the University of Saint Francis Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center downtown at the former Scottish Rite Center will draw 300 to 500 students downtown on a daily basis meaning a segment of that population will prefer to be downtown instead of on campus—just one more component to help drive things.

Q4: What are some of the greatest challenges you face and how will you overcome them?

Moriarty: It’s an ongoing challenge to manage the growth as best we can. We do that with some very talented individuals who have great depths of experience in the private sectors, as well as an enthusiasm to continue to move things forward on a daily basis. The next project is always a challenge because each one is different and presents its own unique challenges. We are most definitely up to the task of meeting those demands, today and tomorrow.

Q5: Where do you gather inspiration and research for planning downtown residential development in Fort Wayne?

Urbahns: We look at a host of other communities, including taking an annual inter-community visit. We’ve been to Grand Rapids, Des Moines and Chattanooga to bring back something from each of those communities. We are always looking to see what other communities are doing and how that fits here, staying authentic and unique to Fort Wayne. It’s important to focus on what’s happening here. 

Moriarty: The real inspiration comes from members of this community who are ready to put these captivating ideas and their collective experiences into actionable plans.

 

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