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EDITORIAL

Editorial: Reviving Fort Wayne is good for Detroit

The Detroit News

The state is stepping in to help preserve and develop historic Fort Wayne, a long underused and now deteriorating 96-acre site in southwest Detroit. This is a worthy investment.

HR&A Advisors Inc. was hired for $235,000 by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to come up with a plan to keep the fort’s historic nature while finding some other uses. There are a wide range of possible developments, from housing, office and industrial to turning it into a tourist attraction.

Officials have high hopes for the fort.

“There may well be an opportunity to do something very special with the Fort Wayne site, considering its history and location,” says Dave Murray, deputy press secretary to Gov. Rick Snyder. “The firm can study the area and tell us what would be feasible, looking at things we might not even have considered.”

It is good use of state dollars to revive what otherwise could turn into just another blighted area. The condition of Fort Wayne has gradually deteriorated, with 39 buildings decaying while grass grows on the roofs of others.

The fort has too much historic value to languish on the brink of collapse. Volunteers with the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition have done an admirable job of painting, repairing and cleaning the site, but only a few buildings are actually being used.

The site is on the federal National Register of Historic Places. So to let it deteriorate would be an insult to all of those who served there over the past 175 years.

HR&A was hired through an economically sound competitive bid process and the New York-based firm has an excellent track record. The company specializes in drafting strategies for turning around public spaces. It claims as its successes the popular High Line in Manhattan, which is a greenway built on a former elevated rail line. The company also was involved in London’s 2012 Olympic Park, and helped plan the overhaul of a portion of downtown Cincinnati.

The fort’s location is another plus. It will be next to the planned Detroit River bridge to Windsor. The bridge’s customs plaza will be across the street from Fort Wayne.

Consequently, the fort will have plenty of exposure to the public and easy access. It will be in plain view of those driving back and forth between Canada and the United States, attracting both walk-in visitors as well as those who see it and make a point to return.

The state’s involvement in rehabilitating Fort Wayne should guarantee a higher, more efficient level of success for the project.