Big zoning proposals for downtown

The gentlemen of the Downtown Fort Wayne Baseball blog are surprised by how little the city has promoted Monday’s Plan Commission meeting which will feature a public hearing on zoning changes west of Harrison Square.

If they hadn’t heard about it, then nobody has.

I may have more questions about the plan myself later, but for now, I will just quote a couple of well-said paragraphs from DFWB:

It is unfortunate that this plan seems to be flying under the radar, coasting right through to a public hearing that most are not even aware of. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad plan, because it’s not, but discussion and discourse should always be encouraged when such notable changes are on the table.

Why were the particular zoning changes decided upon? Do the houses in the proposed historic designation area merit designation? Why are other houses around it not having the same designation proposed? Why not expand the use of the CM5 zoning designation, which more easily allows for mixed-use development?

These are just a few questions that could be asked. The overriding question is “why would these particular changes be the best option?”

The city has an embarrassing habit of appearing to want to slide such changes under the door by technically following the law but not really going out of its way to seek a lot of contrary public input. Good plans can only be improved by opposition pointing out weaknesses.

Those who care about downtown are encouraged to attend Monday’s meeting. For more details, go to the Downtown Fort Wayne Baseball blog’s post.

Hip to be (Harrison) Square

This is a repost from Jon Swerens’ blog.

Is a city-supported downtown baseball stadium and retail complex a good idea for Fort Wayne? Discussion about the proposed Harrison Square may be a moot point, with papers being drawn up and demolition in full swing, but still, the sides remain at loggerheads.

Opponents have been painted as cranky old conservatives. Supporters are portrayed as young optimistic professionals.

But the youngsters have a seemingly unlikely opponent in Richard Florida.

Florida is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and the author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” a best-selling book that studies the 38 million Americans he calls creatives: artists, scientists, musicians, architects and other such people. If anyone is in favor of attracting young creative professionals to cities, it’d be Prof Florida.

In his book, he’s critical of most cities’ efforts:

It’s not that these cities do not want to grow or encourage high-tech industries. In most cases, their leaders are doing everything they think they can to spur innovation and high-tech growth. But most of the time, they either can’t or won’t do the things required to create an environment or habitat that is attractive to the Creative Class.

Sounds like something any young creative person in Fort Wayne might say. But then Florida goes in a somewhat unexpected direction:

They pay lip service to the need to attract talent, but continue to pour resources into underwriting big-box retailers, subsidizing downtown malls, recruiting call centers and squandering precious taxpayer dollars on extravagant stadium complexes. (emphasis mine)

Plus:

The most recent studies show that stadiums do not generate economic wealth and actually reduce local incomes.

Now, before I get flamed in the comments, I realize the differences in Harrison Square’s tax structure and private investment. But we can set that aside, because one big argument for building this stadium is supposed to be to attract and retain the young professional.

Florida begs to differ:

Not once during any of my focus groups and interviews did any member of the Creative Class mention professional sports as playing a role of any sort in their choice of where to live and work.

So why try to build stadiums?

The answer is simple. These cities are stuck in the past.

So Florida may very well call Harrison Square a step into the past, not the future.

I hope for great success for Harrison Square, despite Florida’s gloominess. But it is disingenous of Harrison Square supporters to be so cocky and dismissive of opponents as old stuck-in-the-muds. The very inventor of the term “creative class” may be the biggest critic of all.