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Posted on Sat. Dec. 08, 2012 - 12:17 am EDT

Council set to hear Legacy Fund ideas

FORT WAYNE — Mayor Tom Henry will present to City Council members Tuesday his proposal for spending $20 million worth of the city’s Legacy Funds.

In October, Henry made a rare appearance in the council chambers to give the broad outlines of his proposals. Tuesday’s move will introduce an ordinance authorizing release of the money from the trust fund to pay for nine of the 16 previously presented projects. The rest will be sent to the council at a later date.

“Each one of these provides an opportunity to make our city stronger and position us for growth,” Henry said.

The proposals follow nearly two years of developing recommendations for the money, sifting through more than 1,000 ideas from the community and creating the broad goals for how to use it. The Legacy Fund is money from the lease and sale of the city’s old electric utility, City Power & Light. The city has about $47 million on hand in the fund; an additional $28 million will come in over the next 12 years.

Chief among the proposals offered is a study examining riverfront development in downtown Fort Wayne.

There is wide support for development along the rivers, but because of flooding and environmental concerns, no one knows how or where to do it.

That study could cost up to $500,000 but could spur millions of dollars worth of development after it’s done, officials said.

Community Development Director John Urbahns said officials plan to issue a request for proposals in early 2013, and the study and planning could take two years.

Other proposals include:

•Higher Education Opportunity Fund – Up to $8 million could be used as matching funds to help colleges and universities move facilities downtown.

•Downtown Trust – Give $1 million to a trust that purchases or options downtown properties of strategic value.

•Downtown overpass/underpass beautification and lighting – $700,000 a year for three years to transform overpasses serving as gateways to downtown with unique overpass signage and underpass art light.

•Ewing/Fairfield conversion – $3 million to convert Ewing and Fairfield from one-way to two-way, along with streetscape and pedestrian and bike and improvements, plus a roundabout at Superior Street.

•Gateways – $2 million ($500,000 a year for four years) for way-finding signage; corridor enhancements; interchange beautification along and adjacent to city’s major gateway corridors.

•Trail development – $1 million to provide the 20 percent local match needed for previously committed federal dollars to go toward implementing several city trail projects in 2013-14.

•Youth sports assessment/market potential study and implementation – Up to $200,000 for a study to provide guidance on how best to market existing strategies, determine untapped opportunities and determine facility needs with the goal of being regionally/nationally recognized in youth/prep sports.

•McMillen arena – $2 million renovation of the former McMillen Ice Arena into a community center.

City Council President Tom Smith, R-1st, said he’s glad to see the proposals moving forward and hopes the council does not try to pick them apart piece by piece.

“My preference is we pass it as a package,” Smith said. “To separate it out and look in detail at separate parts again, it’s almost like starting the two-year process again. I don’t know what would be gained by that.”

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