Entry markers into Fort Wayne proudly proclaim a city “Founded on the Rivers,” but just five years ago that connection was hard to feel. Despite the impact their natural order has on the organization of the city, the rivers were obscured by vegetation and development that often turned its back to them. For many, the only experience of the rivers was the brief glimpses they caught as they drove over them on their way to and from downtown.
A New Tide Rises
But a new tide was rising in Fort Wayne. City officials were beginning to recognize the unique value of the Maumee, St. Marys, and St. Joseph Rivers, and citizens were more interested than ever in the kind of unique placemaking projects that allowed them to get outdoors and truly live in their city. At the confluence of this City recognition and popular momentum was an idea for a new, public riverfront project that would provide entertainment, access to nature, and the social connectivity that make great spaces come to life.
As regional economic partnerships boldly declared northeast Indiana a community on The Road to One Million, the idea of community-serving spaces with a higher vision gained momentum. Growing the region to one million people would require an intense effort to position northeast Indiana globally, in order to attract, retain, and develop talent. Such goals demand places for social offerings that express openness and inclusivity in a meaningful way.
Creating a Vision for the Future
The Riverfront Conceptual Plan was developed with the clear goal of defining what riverfront development in Fort Wayne could be. The first phase of development would serve as the anchor point for this city-redefining project. The City of Fort Wayne and Parks and Recreation Department chose a location near downtown, nestled between two historic bridges and stretching from the south bank to the north bank of the St. Marys River. Promenade Park had found its home.
The City and Parks Department selected Riverworks Design Group to envision and design this important starting point for Riverfront Fort Wayne. Riverworks Design Group was a team of local and national experts equally committed to the mission of making Promenade Park a world-class destination. The team included Design Collaborative, Lamar Johnson Collaborative, Engineering Resources, Hoch Associates, American Structurepoint, and One Lucky Guitar. Riverworks Design Group was a team of architects, engineers, landscape architects, brand creators, and storytellers that joined forces to not only create a beautiful and environmentally-sensitive location, but to curate the character and soul of the place even before construction began.
Over the next five years, Riverworks Design Group would hold countless meetings with citizens and stakeholder organizations like Anthony Wayne Services, the League, Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana, and dozens of others to create a park that was of world-class quality, uncompromisingly accessible to all, and unquestioningly unique to northeast Indiana. The product of such an intensive investigation and stakeholder engagement process is a design that welcomes all and energizes the community. Promenade Park compliments and facilitates Parks programming while creating meaningful connection to rivers that sparked the founding of Fort Wayne.
A Community Comes Together at its Rivers
Promenade Park enjoyed a hugely successful grand opening over three days in August. Tens of thousands of citizens and leaders visited the newest addition to Fort Wayne and enjoyed the rivers in a way that was previously impossible. Promenade Park has immediately become a beloved place for citizens and visitors of Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana, and a huge source of regional pride.
Promenade Park connects our history and our future. It connects us to the rivers. It connects us to one another. The City of Fort Wayne and the Parks and Recreation Department, along with the guidance of the Riverworks Design Group, have built a park, but more importantly, they have built a place of community.