Headwaters Junction, [is] an educational and entertainment venue that would provide a link to local attractions like the Fort Wayne Childrenâ€™s Zoo, isnâ€™t new. It was first proposed the idea more than two years ago, before the historic Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad freight depot on Clinton Street was demolished, but hasnâ€™t been able to gather enough monetary support for the plan.
Whatâ€™s changed is the opportunity for funding through the Legacy Fund, money the city made on the lease and sale of its old electric utility City Power & Light.
About $47 million will be immediately available while an additional $28 million will trickle in over the next 12 years.
The proposal carries a price tag of about $20.5 million, based on estimates from other cities that have tackled similar endeavors. He said if completed in its entirety as itâ€™s proposed, Headwaters Junction would require funding from various sources, but the Legacy Fund provided the vehicle for the idea to take off.
A nod from the task force determining how the funds should be spent could provide a boost to the plan in convincing the mayor, his administration and the community that Headwaters Junction is a viable option for the north river property near the St. Marys River just north of downtown.
Headwaters Junction is mentioned in the Legacy Task Forceâ€™s riverfront development master plan and implementation, one of four spending categories for the fund. Nine projects were proposed and approved by City Council last month, including a feasibility study to examine riverfront development.
Task force members wrote that incorporating Headwaters Junction into a mixed-use development â€œshould not be overlooked. The consulting firm (performing a feasibility study) should give Headwaters Junction its due diligence when developing a vision for our riverfront and North River.â€
John Urbahns, community development director, said the team determined that the plan for Headwaters Junction provided a unique opportunity and should be given more consideration. The $500,000 riverfront study will investigate the best use for property around the cityâ€™s rivers, including the north river property.
At the heart of the plan is to return Berkshire steam locomotive No. 765 to downtown Fort Wayne where it had been on display as a monument to the 1955 Elevate the Nickel Plate project that opened a two-track overpass above city streets. Because of deterioration to the steam locomotive, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society removed the locomotive in 1974 and has since restored it.
Steam locomotive 765 already represents a remarkable national tourist attraction with a proven 30 year track record. Far from marginalization in a textbook, the 765 is not just living history, but a sensory experience.
With annual visitors, supporters, and passengers from all 50 states and a handful of countries, the draw of the train is immense, proven, and experienced by thousands around the country every year.
The railroads and their iron horses championed a time and place that represented shared purpose, common destinations, and a sense of community and connectivity. How can the 765 and its successes, and the collection and offerings of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society become an asset to tourism, economic development, and quality of life for Fort Wayne?
Visit www.headwatersjunction.com to find out.