I recently joined with members of the Legacy Fort Wayne Task Force to celebrate the conclusion of the community-wide initiative to guide decision-making about the future of the Fort Wayne Community Trust and City Light Lease Settlement funds – Fort Wayne’s $75 million legacy.
The challenge to the 15-member advisory committee and to our entire community was to look to the future, to think long term, to be bold. We took that challenge to heart. And through the work of the Task Force, the priorities were concentrated into three focus areas, and a call to careful stewardship of the funds. They are as follows:
•Economic Investment, which includes business attraction, job retention and creation; and rail, pedestrian and bike infrastructure; and gateway investments.
•Downtown and Riverfront Development, which encompasses the city’s arts and cultural offerings.
•Youth/Prep Sports Initiatives, which capitalizes upon an underutilized tourism and economic opportunity, while promoting the youth experience in Fort Wayne.
•Investment or reinvestment of Trust Fund and Light Lease Settlement dollars to ensure the protection and strategic investment of Legacy Fort Wayne funds for the future.
Each of these focus areas represents a unique opportunity to enhance Fort Wayne and better position our area for growth. Each reflects our collective determination to build on our investments, build on our strengths and build on the promise of tomorrow. Each has the potential to be a real and true legacy.
The report embodies the deliberative efforts of the Task Force, distilling and integrating the extensive public input – more than 900 submitted ideas – gathered during Legacy Fort Wayne’s community-engagement phase.
The heart of Legacy Fort Wayne was, in fact, community involvement. More than a dozen different methods, both traditional and digital, were used to engage and collect the suggestions of the public. Your imagination informed and shaped the work every step of the way.
As the touchstone for its efforts, the Task Force adopted guiding principles that established a common vision and unified purpose for the funds, centering on the long-term best interests of the community, catalytic investment and the leveraging of additional resources.
Due to the magnitude of the concepts, the Task Force came to understand that each focus area would require significant research and refinement before it could be advanced. This led the group to make broader recommendations, rather than detailed project proposals, on possible investments that could have a transformative impact on our community.
Managed wisely, our goal is for each Legacy dollar to leverage an additional dollar, or more, in private investment in our city. So, instead of $75 million, we could grow these resources to become $150 million of catalytic development in Fort Wayne.
The Legacy Fort Wayne monies come from two sources: 1) the $39.2 million City Light Lease Settlement, reached between the City of Fort Wayne and Indiana Michigan Power; and 2) the approximately $36 million Fort Wayne Community Trust, established by the City 35 years ago, using a portion of the annual Light Lease payments.
As the next step in this process, I will appoint Legacy Champion Teams, comprising diverse groups of community leaders and subject-matter experts, to review each of the recommendations. Each team will be asked to work with City staff to determine feasibility, needs and resources, and to develop an action plan or other appropriate proposal. These groups will be announced early next year.
Now we have a roadmap. It’s time to get going. It’s time to start building our stronger, more vibrant future. For more information about Legacy Fort Wayne and to read the final report, go to www.LegacyFortWayne.org.
In closing, I hope this holiday season brings all of our residents many reasons to rejoice and be thankful. As we gather with friends and family, take a moment to ponder what really matters – good health, time spent with family and our common hope for better things to come. If you are able, please donate your time or resources to our many local food banks, agencies, organizations or religious institutions that are providing assistance to those in need. The gift of giving is one that never gets old.