Riverfront Development

What if we strengthened our community through thriving places?


Places thrive as more people, from all parts of the community, engage with others and experiment with ideas for change.

Riverfront development in Fort Wayne is a placemaking initiative that is inspiring our city to collectively reimagine and reinvent the public space at the heart of our community – our rivers.

From the inception of this transformational community project, the Community Foundation has taken on a leadership role, encouraging the private sector to capitalize on local assets, inspiration and potential. We have served as a community leader, collaborating with the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to create a quality public space that will positively impact people’s overall health, happiness and well-being in our community.


To date, the Community Foundation has granted/committed over $3.5 million to support Riverfront Fort Wayne development and programming, including: major contributions to feasibility studies, riverfront survey work, the Middle Waves concert festival, project design and schematics, and a connectivity meeting with international placemaking experts, Gehl Studios.


Additionally, the Community Foundation has paid special attention to the importance of enabling our community to be outside and experience our rivers and their beauty in new and different ways. To ensure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy our rivers, we have contributed to the purchase of three very different water craft that will be on the rivers in the summer of 2017: a pontoon, a duck boat, and (the boat we are most excited about) a beautiful canal boat

Riverfront Resources

Recent News

Progress continues to be made on riverfront development efforts. The Riverfront Advisory Committee on Tuesday reviewed updated Riverfront Development designs and has unanimously recommended that the Park Board approve the Final Phase One Riverfront Development Designs.

The following are design changes that have been incorporated since the schematic design public meeting in July:

North Bank

Tree Canopy Trail

  • The structure of the Tree Canopy Trail has changed from a suspension system to below-boardwalk support. This more efficient approach inspired the design of the railing system which will be a heavy-duty mesh stretched between supporting posts.
  • The path of the trail has been refined to pass between existing trees and to reduce the impact to wetlands.

Children’s Play Area

  • The Children’s Play Area is now more accessible and the playground equipment has been selected with children of all abilities in mind.

River Access

  • The inlet for kayakers, canoers, or paddleboarders is now equipped with a floating dock launch system to assist people with disabilities as well as those who aren’t seasoned explorers. The stepped access for manpowered craft still exists at this location as well as east of the seawall dock.

Harrison Street Bridge

  • The bridge will be converted from 3 lanes of vehicular traffic to two lanes of vehicles, with one lane dedicated to pedestrians. The pedestrian walkway will have benches and the existing look of the balustrade will be preserved.

South Bank

Entry Feature

  • This will now be a commissioned work by a nationally recognized sculptor.


  • In response to the desire for a potential concession and/or catering vendors, the floor plan has been updated. The concession space could potentially be useable even if the pavilion space is reserved for an event.
  • Internal and external family restrooms have been added.

Superior Street Gardens

  • Once envisioned as a lawn panel, this now boasts seatwall planters, lush foliage, and shade trees to offer the opportunity for a quiet respite in the urban park.
  • The area closer to the pavilion is now envisioned as a dining garden – a place to sit outside under the shade of the trees and picnic with your family or enjoy a snack from the pavilion.

Get the full story and see the most up-to-date Riverfront news here.

Next Steps

The first phase of riverfront development will be focused on the public spaces in a park setting and the projected construction investment will not exceed $20 million. Development would occur on the south and north sides of the St. Marys River between Harrison Street and the historic Wells Street Bridge. Highlights of the plans include a promenade, park pavilion, event lawn, entry plaza with sculpture/signage, urban bioswale, educational water feature, urban streetscape, central plaza, urban riverfront terraces, elevated boardwalk, dock, interactive sculpture, and children’s play area.

For the construction phase to begin, the Park Board is in the process of acquiring three properties along Superior and Harrison streets.

The Community Foundation is a committed partner of Riverfront Fort Wayne and will continue to support this transformational community project in a variety of capacities. We recently committed a $500,000 grant to the Fort Wayne Parks Department to be used as a $1-for-$2 match to benefit ongoing fundraising efforts for Riverfront Fort Wayne. The matching grant will go directly to the Fort Wayne Parks Foundation to support their recently approved resolution pledging to raise $1,500,000 for the construction of Riverfront Development Phase 1.


In 2014, the Community Foundation announced that it would use $1 million dollars of a challenge match grant provided by Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. to raise $3 million total. The $1 million was used to provide a 50% match for gifts to benefit riverfront development efforts. The call to the community to raise $2 million for the riverfront development fund was successfully answered thanks to the vision, enthusiasm, and passion of donors like you.

More background

For many years, Fort Wayne and the surrounding area relied upon the St. Marys, St. Joseph, and the Maumee rivers for navigation, economic development and drinking water plus many more activities. As time passed, the rivers were largely ignored (except during flooding). Very little activity occurs in and around the rivers.

In recent years, the City of Fort Wayne and its citizens have undergone a detailed study of the possible uses for our rivers. From the study, it was concluded that the riverfront holds much promise and plenty of possibilities, and can enhance this community to attract new talent to Fort Wayne and give a boost to community development.

The Riverfront Fort Wayne Conceptual Plan was realized as a result of the Legacy Fort Wayne community initiative, which sought to determine the best investments for funds received as a result of proceeds of a long-term lease and recent sale of the City’s electric utility.

The Legacy Fort Wayne Task Force created by Mayor Tom Henry in 2011, identified Fort Wayne’s downtown riverfront as a key opportunity area for investment. The Task Force recommended the Riverfront Fort Wayne Study as the first step to realizing the potential of the downtown riverfront area as a vibrant, regionally important destination on the north side of the City’s downtown.


Community Leadership in Action

The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne has taken a lead role in private fundraising to support the City of Fort Wayne’s Riverfront Development efforts.

© 2019 Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne