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City and Headwaters Junction strike deal, partnership

By Headwaters Junction, News, Uncategorized

July 13, 2020, FORT WAYNE, INDIANA – Statement from the Headwaters Junction Board of Directors regarding the Redevelopment Commission’s vote approving the City of Fort Wayne’s purchase of Headwaters Junction’s interest in the Norfolk Southern railroad right-of-way property:

“As we have from the beginning, we are proud to partner with the City as they continue their efforts to make Fort Wayne a world-class place to live, work and play. We believe this agreement with the City is the right step for Fort Wayne and its ongoing efforts to transform our riverfront into an amazing destination for residents and visitors alike.

At the same time, we are excited about what the future holds for Headwaters Junction. While its concept as a recreated rail yard, roundhouse and tourist railroad is rooted in our history, its vision looks confidently to the future. It will bring a mixed-use regional destination offering unique programs, events, connectivity and truly memorable experiences, while celebrating our city’s local culture and identity.

We are grateful to the City for its continued support of Headwaters Junction, and we look forward to working with its Community Development team to set the foundation for the City’s partnership and contribution to creating a regional destination entirely unique to Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana.”

The City of Fort Wayne also released a statement:

“Advancing Riverfront Fort Wayne helps us continue to improve the quality of place that so many employers are looking for,” said Townsend. “I want to thank the Headwaters Junction Board of Directors for transferring the purchase agreement to the Redevelopment Commission and I look forward to working with them as they bring their vision of creating a vibrant regional destination to life.”

WANE 15 reports:

“We talked through the plans and future of the riverfront,” Redevelopment Director Nancy Townsend told the commission about her conversations with the railroad preservation group. “Headwaters Junction still has plans and will still occur.”

While Monday’s vote likely means the end of the project’s riverfront plans, WANE 15 has learned a new location in the downtown area has been discussed between Headwaters Junction and city leaders. The specific location has not yet been publicly announced.

“There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re not doing it alone,” Headwaters Junction Executive Director Kelly Lynch said.

The Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly details the evolution of Headwaters Junction and its partnership with the City:

“Lynch, Headwaters Junction’s executive director and vice president of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, sees the transfer of the purchase agreement to the city as a bit of a fast track for eventual development of the $15-$20 million project, a place to transport visitors back in time. An important aspect of the project is that it’s not just going to appeal to train enthusiasts, but have recreational and tourism aspects as well, he said.

“This (transfer) really officiates the start of a more formal working partnership with the city,” Lynch said. Over the last couple of years, the city has come to understand not only the vision of the project, but also the impact on tourism, economic development and its quality-of-life benefits, he said.

“Rather than working separately on projects that are meant to benefit the community like riverfront development and Headwaters Junction, we’re finally working together,” he said.”

Headwaters Junction secures purchase agreement for riverfront right-of-way

By Headwaters Junction

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA – Non-profit organization and potential riverfront developer Headwaters Junction, Inc. has finalized a purchase agreement with railroad company Norfolk Southern Corp for one mile of historic railroad right-of-way along Fort Wayne’s growing riverfront district. Unoccupied since 2006, plans call for the right-of-way to be utilized for the proposed attraction’s tourist train operations and connect the riverfront to other area attractions. The line was originally built in the 1860’s. Read More

Santa Train sells out as event makes new tracks

By Headwaters Junction, News

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA. – For the third year in a row, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s Santa Trains have sold out in under 24 hours. The popular event, which offers a 20-minute train ride with Santa Claus, has been expanded in 2016 to include extra days and has turned the society’s restoration facility into Santa’s Workshop.

“Each year the popularity of this event increases and our facility has been upgraded to not only accommodate more operating days but to improve the experience for visitors,” said Bill Otter, president of the FWRHS. “The reception has been exactly what we hoped for. We wanted people to say ‘wow’ when they walked in the door.”

Home of restored Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive no. 765, the society’s facility on Edgerton Road received a concrete floor in early 2016 and equipment on display has been outfitted with Christmas lights, fog machines, music and sound effects for the occasion. While all trips for December are sold out, visitors are welcome during operating hours on December 10th, 11th, 17th and 18th.

Visitors are able to explore the 765, take their photo with the famous engine, visit a children’s activity area and watch model trains on display before climbing aboard Santa’s caboose. The trips are operated by one of the organization’s vintage diesel locomotives.

“Since we began this event over 15 years ago, visitors would often have to wait for 2 hours or more which was unacceptable. With the improvements we’ve made over the years, the experience has become an annual tradition for so many families,” explained Kelly Lynch, Vice President.

Following on the heels of the organization’s record-setting attendance at its Open House in August, the Santa Train will host nearly 5,000 visitors throughout December.

The Santa Train is one of several operations included as part of Headwaters Junction, an attraction that will comprise Phase 1b of downtown riverfront development. The project will include a railyard park, roundhouse and tourist railroad enabling greater capacity for similar events, regularly historic railroad attractions and programming and events throughout the year.

Recent studies underwritten by Steel Dynamics, the Fort Wayne Community Foundation, the Schust Foundation and the railroad historical society have shown that Headwaters Junction could draw over 140,000 visitors to downtown and contribute $60 million in economic impact and that expanded facility could easily bring 20,000 people downtown during the holiday season. 20,000 more visitors were added to the initial projections after a connection to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo was included as part of the project’s initial phases.

Renderings can be viewed online at headwatersjunction.com. Additional news regarding leadership, grants and equipment acquisitions for the project will be forthcoming in 2017.

The 2017 excursion season for the 765 will be announced in the spring.

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The 765 decked out in Christmas decor.