Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

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Bob Durnell
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Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Bob Durnell » Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:42 am

While going on the public record saying a lot of the right things, it seems as though the Henry administration is throwing every possible road block in the way of making this project a viable reality. I've become EXTREMELY frustrated by their lack of support and the fact that they don't seem to have a very good understanding of what the project can bring or that a VERY FEW select locations are even practical for it, North River being one of the MOST logical ones. Is it time to step up and make more of our voices heard? I have always been more in favor of natural organic support over manufactured rabble rousing, but has the time to sit back and just let things happen passed by? I also think that in some ways the project may be hindered by much of its support coming from outside the city limits where people like me who are not city residents can't put much of a scare into the mayor or the city council. I'm interested to hear what other here think.
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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Notch 8 » Sat Jan 04, 2020 9:24 am

Because Mayor Henry and His Administration is Hell Bent on the Electric Works Project and not Headwater's Junction ? Headwaters is not part of their Vision. I'm not bashing Henry i'm just stating my view.

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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Hotbox » Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:15 pm

I think that cronyism is no doubt a large part of it. You know the old saying "it's not who you know, but who you blow".

The entitled special interests that make their connections well before they make their play are the ones who get green lighted.

I think that is 90%. I think the other 10% of is that the articles Kelly writes for the papers sound just a little too "P.T. Barnum" ish to me...I think when you read someone who is so over the top as he often is, it naturally puts your tail between your legs. And I don't mean that to sound as an insult. I just find myself rolling my eyes reading him allude to nebulous other development that MIGHT happen alongside Headwaters Junction/North River

He makes me feel like Clara Peller, I just want to stand up and shout "Where's the Beef?"

FWIW, it appears as though the Electric Works promoters are having their fair share of grief with the City as well.

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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Hotbox » Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:44 pm

I think that a part of it might be strategic, as well. I have done no serious research to back up what I am about to say, but here is what I think:

They are already collecting property taxes on the portions of Headwaters Junction that will not be physically located inside "North River"....is this not true? so putting HJ in the place of the current occupants really doesn't contribute a whole lot to the taxman's bottom line.

And I really think that the group that has acquired control of the North River parcel, has got bigger fish in mind when an end user is finally located. Almost to the extent that all these peripheral sweeteners and excelsior being done to make Ft Wayne more of a livable city are mere bait designed to attract the main prize?

So, going in and expecting them to cut a sweetheart deal and short their ambitions to execute those master plans, is going to be understandably an exercise in frustration. JMHO

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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Bob Durnell » Sat Jan 04, 2020 1:52 pm

I could completely off base on this, but in my opinion, unlike many of these others proposed projects, I don't know that Headwaters Junction asking all that much from city, just stop being a roadblock and let the project go forward on its own merits and ability to raise capital. The city asked for proposals. HJ was the ONLY one that stepped up to the plate and submitted a qualifying proposal. That should should have sealed it right there. I don't give a damn what the city would LIKE to see put there, money talks and BS walks. If Headwaters Junction can fund the deal to make it a reality, then they should be allowed to move forward. At the VERY LEAST, if the City is so dead set against having it at North River, then they should be coming forward with workable alternatives. You can't help but get the impression that they flat out don't want this to happen regardless of how or where.
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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Hotbox » Sat Jan 04, 2020 3:56 pm

I could be wrong too, but every one of Kelly Lynch's articles in the paper have (to me) read like a "fetching" spiel.

On the other side of that coin, if they've got all the money they need already committed, then I personally doubt they would have much trouble finding some other city willing to host their museum.

It's hard to quantify, I think it's a great bunch of guys, with a worthwhile objective, I hope they succeed, and all that. But at the same time I recall when they made their first test runs with the 765 after the lengthy rebuild in the early 2000's the way they snuck the train out of town for the tests really didn't inspire a sense of community. So it's kind of ironic that seems to be the stumbling block now. Perhaps the absence of a need to feel engaged with the community is paying unexpected dividends?

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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Bob Durnell » Sat Jan 04, 2020 4:53 pm

First off, Kelly is passionate about what he believes in and he's trying to sell a vision. Right now he is a salesman, and as the saying goes, you don't sell the steak, you sell the sizzle. I don't see anything wrong with that. I think that those of us that are more acquainted with railroads and railroad museums tend to be a little jaded about this sometimes, but IF this project is going to succeed, it must be pitched to people that might have never even thought about going to a train museum, and it will have to be much more than just that. I think that is what Kelly and the HJ people are trying to convey. I think it can feed other attractions and those other attractions can feed it.

Secondly, as far as train operations and secrecy, that is just a price of getting cooperation for these things to even happen. To this day, I still don't know how in the heck the FWRHS got approval to run east of Fort Wayne on the Cf&E, and you'll notice it hasn't happened since. That type of thing is not something that CSX or Rail America were in the habit of allowing at that time. Nobody wants to know EVERYTHING that is going to happen any more than I do, but I also realize sometimes there are reasons I'm NOT supposed to know it. I also don't think that the people we need to get behind this project give a damn about such things.

Back to the subject at hand, I just can't help but think that if Headwater's Junction was the product of a Henry Administration idea, MOUNTAINS would be moved to make it reality, from influencing the results of plan studies to using eminent domain to take property to having John Perlich preach about it his "60 seconds with the City of Fort Wayne" campaign commercials. Since it is not, it seems to not only NOT be a priority, but almost a threat to their own pet ideas. As for the money, I think that a lot of the support for the project is predicated on it being a Fort Wayne thing. I'm not sure a lot of the support would follow it elsewhere, not to mention the local investment in facilities (Casad) local talent (FWRHS) and the need to have a viable connection with Norfolk Southern. That starts to whittle down the options pretty quickly.
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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Hotbox » Sat Jan 04, 2020 5:59 pm

Bob Durnell wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 4:53 pm
I also realize sometimes there are reasons I'm NOT supposed to know it. I also don't think that the people we need to get behind this project give a damn about such things.


Well, I didn't come into this thread looking for a fight, you asked what other people thought, and I told you what I thought. (I probably should stop here, but I won't)

The FWRHS offered "updates" as a perk to becoming a supporting member. They renegged on that offer when they chose to not inform people of the test runs. They may very well have had sterling reasons for their covertness, but that does nothing to change what they promised versus what they did. The engine actually running live after an extended dormancy was only something that every paying member of the society was waiting on. Trying to downplay that with the excuse "I don't really think people give a damn about that" is an absurd oversimplification.

Then they come out with that "there wasn't time to notify anyone " ruse. Well if there was time to find coal that suggests there was some time involved for prep work.

Perhaps it's that very "not giving a damn" part which you emphasize that is the real problem ?

Reciprocity can be a b*tch.

Bear in mind I'm not angry over any of this, but the very premise of "why won't anyone play ball with us?" might have an answer closer to home than is comfortable to own? Just a thought .....

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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Bob Durnell » Sun Jan 05, 2020 9:51 am

The point I was trying to make was that the people who ultimately hold the fate of Headwater's junction in their hands don't know about that and don't care. That's a rail fan thing, and they are not the problem here. This is a political thing right now.
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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Hotbox » Sun Jan 05, 2020 11:22 am

Bob Durnell wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 9:51 am
The point I was trying to make was that the people who ultimately hold the fate of Headwater's junction in their hands don't know about that and don't care. That's a rail fan thing, and they are not the problem here. This is a political thing right now.
Sometimes things are more connected beneath the surface than might at first appear. As I recall a few years ago you and I had a discussion here about claims being made in the paper that 765 tours would embark from downtown.....your response to me at that time was very similar that you didn't think people would really give a damn that those promises were unlikely to come to fruition.

If this indifference you have towards saying one thing then doing another is organic, it might be coming to the surface in other ways which your coveted power brokers are picking up on? Maybe it's just a "vibe"?

Just being frank, perhaps a little reflection in this area might be worthwhile?

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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Steve Bryan » Sun Jan 05, 2020 1:40 pm

I think the mere fact that the Henry administration has not shown any support whatsoever for the HWJ concept is telling. "If you are not for me, you are against me." comes to mind as appropriate observation. It is obvious that Henry (or more probably, his handlers) are against the museum idea. I am not privy to what is going on behind the scenes as to what is actually being proposed for North River other than what has been discussed publicly (a sports complex, a hospital, condos, etc.). However, these projects, whatever they turn out to be, require a lot of capital from well-connected people. They do not think the HWJ concept is compatible and are against it. When the original (only) proposal was rejected out of hand, I think the handwriting was on the wall about the future of the proposal. I hope I am wrong...but I don't think so. Rant over.

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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Bob Durnell » Sun Jan 05, 2020 3:47 pm

Steve, you mentioned a couple of things that stirred some thought. I tend to agree with your assessment about the Henry administration is cold at best to the project, but nobody else is jumping up to develop North River, so here we are holding out for pie in the sky and ignoring the only concrete project that has been proposed. I would also point out that the sports arena is a stupid idea, because in my opinion this town already has that covered, and any new facility will just cannibalize business from the existing venues to the point that NONE of then are viable. As for a hospital, other than the pint sized replacement for St Joe, I don't see ANYBODY running to put a hospital downtown and there is certainly no reason to waste prime real estate on a hospital. The housing would be OK, but that too would be a waste of real estate that would be better used by things that would benefit from the high visibility and street traffic that North River offers. For years all we have heard was that if we expect people to live downtown and visit downtown we have to have things for them to do. Here is something interesting and unique that can help that cause, and yet the City has turned a cold shoulder to it. I still have to wonder if the fact that this project is so different from the run of the mill City planning playbook, that nobody in Citizen's Square truly understands it or knows what to do with it. The project needs a cheerleader inside city government, and if none of them can grasp it, it's hard for them to become a cheerleader. Here's another option that I have been considering lately. If North River is a no go, how about turning Lawton Park into Headwater's Junction? 765 lived there once, this would be a homecoming. On the upside, no new property would have to be acquired, it would make a nice bookend to Science Central, It would still have thousands of cars driving by every day, The old railroad ROW could still be utilized, and a connection to Franke Park would still be possible. Basically the only thing you would be losing is a couple of ratty baseball diamonds.
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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Hotbox » Sat Jan 18, 2020 2:53 pm

Not having seen the proposal you speak of, but reviewing the most recent drawings, a few thoughts come to mind:

I'm sure they are eager to recover their envirohazard abatement costs. The drawings indicate that not only will the HWJ project not occupy the entire parcel, but further it will divide the portion that is left vacant, a portion on the Harrison st side and a larger block on the Clinton st side. I'm guessing, but such a split makes the portion remaining vacant more challenging to market. Could it be that they are concerned that such a configuration might leave them with stranded abatement costs? (compared to if they found a single end user willing to take the whole enchilada).

Secondly, you've got that long narrow strip running north-south from your museum to Fourth street. (the "divider" mentioned above) Does your proposal contemplate the HWJ either buying or leasing that strip, or are you hoping to leave that strip with the city as some form of common area for which they will receive no compensation? If the latter is the case I can understand where they might have reservations.


I can't speak for the city, but as someone that worked in commercial real estate development and management for 28 years, I will say that I would likewise be less than enthusiastic if I were the landlord and somebody came to me with such a proposed land use, leaving me with divided, left overs. That's not to say I wouldn't do it, but it would definitely have to be a "top dollar" type of deal to be worth my while.

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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Bob Durnell » Sun Jan 19, 2020 11:18 am

I can't provide detailed specifics, but I DO know that HWJ offered to take the far north end of the property, which I think most people would agree is the LEAST attractive part of the parcel, leaving a quite large chunk of land for other development. Otherwise all they need is enough room to thread a track through to connect it to the riverfront. Actually, the more I think about my Lawton park suggestion, the more I like THAT idea. Just one more point I would like to bring up is that the city has continually talked about attractions and venues and bringing more people TO downtown. This project is an attraction, a venue and reason to bring people in. I also can't emphasize enough that the city put out a request for proposals and NOBODY ELSE stepped up to the plate. I think that says an awful lot right there. As it currently stands, HWJ is the ONLY thing going that could provide the city with some return on their investment.
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Re: Can anybody explain the city of Fort Wayne's lack of interest in Headwater's Junction?

Post by Hotbox » Sun Jan 19, 2020 12:49 pm

Well, sincerely best wishes in hopes that you succeed. Just my cynical nature but I suspect that $$$ is more the issue than politics.
They can sink their site remediation costs more easily into the entire parcel than just a portion. And I doubt they want to hold onto partial areas that they may never be able to market.(for just that reason)

So my 'gut' tells me they are holding out, hoping to find a single user. (As an aside, I doubt they are too thrilled by the extension of Calhoun street as depicted in the most recent drawing either, since that would be a subtraction to the marketable area also. A single user would present no subtractions since any needed corridors would be on their own property). But I suspect the configuration of your plan has presented some compromises that the City would prefer not to have to make, as well.

FWIW, I thought the "West Wayne" location offered several advantages, not the least of which was no new grade crossings (maintenance).
Last edited by Hotbox on Sun Jan 19, 2020 1:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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