Detroit Seeks Partners to Rehabilitate Historic Fort Wayne

The city of Detroit’s General Services Department, Parks and Recreation Division is seeking public and private partners to help revitalize and activate Historic Fort Wayne, which sits in the city’s Delray neighborhood. The goal is to make it a high-visibility location adjacent to the future site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge entrance.
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Historic Fort Wayne
Detroit is seeking partners who will help rehabilitate and occupy buildings in Historic Fort Wayne. // Photo courtesy of the city of Detroit

The city of Detroit’s General Services Department, Parks and Recreation Division is seeking public and private partners to help revitalize and activate Historic Fort Wayne, which sits in the city’s Delray neighborhood. The goal is to make it a high-visibility location adjacent to the future site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge entrance.

Partners can be nonprofit, for-profit, governmental, or quasi-governmental agencies and educational institutions. The city has released a request for information seeking responses from entities able to rehabilitate and occupy one or more currently vacant buildings at the riverfront site.

The General Services Department plans to eventually facilitate greater access to the property, exploring steps to open the site on a regular or daily basis with opportunities for recreation and historical interpretation. This may include increased city investment or a partnership with other governmental agencies or private or philanthropic entities.

“It’s very important to us – due to all the feedback we’ve gotten from the community over the past few years – to preserve as many of these historic buildings as possible,” says Meagan Elliott, chief parks planner for the Detroit General Services Department.

By the end of the year, the department intends to increase the Historic Fort Wayne hours of operation to facilitate regular public visitation as a city park. Currently, public access is limited to organized events and weekend tours during the summer.

The request for information describes a rehabilitation in lieu of rent model, in which third parties make up-front upgrades to a historic building prior to occupancy. In return, they may occupy the building for a specified number of years determined by the level of initial investment required. City officials studied this model, and it has been successful in other major cities. The request for information process is part of a strategic planning initiative funded by the National Park Foundation and supported by the Kresge Foundation.

The city acquired Historic Fort Wayne in three phases in 1949, 1971, and 1976 through two public benefit conveyance programs for surplus federal property administered by the National Park Service. It was operated for a time as the Ford Wayne Military Museum. It is a former U.S. military reservation and features almost 40 historic structures of varying scales, time periods, and condition, including its namesake masonry star fort, the only such structure remaining in the Midwest. It also features a quarter mile of riverfront access and a historic parade ground area now used as athletic fields. A Native American burial mound, dating from around 750-1150, is part of the property and is fenced off from public access.

A walk-through/tour will take place at 9 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 24. Those interested can RSVP to historicfortwayne@detroitmi.gov. The question deadline is 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25, and the submission deadline is 11 a.m. on Tuesday, March 10. More information is available here.

From 2018-2019, Historic Fort Wayne saw 31,113 visitors and hosted 3,000 events.

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