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Historic Fort Wayne may be set for redevelopment


Historic Fort Wayne in southwest Detroit may be set to receive a makeover.

Originally constructed in 1845 to protect Detroit interests along the Canadian border, the fort saw its first real action during the Civil War when Michigan soldiers reported there for duty. In subsequent years, it served as an intake center for every American conflict spanning from the Civil War to Vietnam.

The Fort was officially retired from military use in 1972, and its expanse was handed to the city of Detroit, save nine acres still occupied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since then, many of the nearly 40 buildings have fallen into disrepair due to a lack of funding and tourist interest.

Now the volunteers with the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition who have worked to maintain the site may be getting a helping hand. Michigan’s Economic Development Corporation opened the door to receive recommendations about possible future uses for the fort last fall. A New York based firm, HR&A Advisors, responsible for the much-lauded High Line project in Manhattan got the nod.

The consulting firm will now work in conjunction with Michigan officials and community members to craft a formal vision for the site. All concerned parties met to discuss progress on Tuesday night.

Andy Doctoroff represents Gov. Rick Snyder’s office. He explained that their attention was drawn to the area with the construction of the Gordie Howe Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor. “There is a unique and new opportunity to have visitors attend Fort Wayne and make best possible use of that very valuable riverfront property.”

Doctoroff said the fort offers the potential of a new recreational area that could enhance quality of life for Detroiters. City Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López echoed this sentiment. “I’ve coached soccer there. I’ve played soccer there. I think many people use it for recreational opportunities,” she said. “It really is a beautiful site and I think one of the few places for southwest Detroiters to access the river.”

Castañeda-López said community involvement in these preliminary stages of planning is paramount to long-term success. “It does take more time because there’s more people to engage. But I think in the end the product you have is much richer and much stronger.” 

– Josh Andrew, Michigan Radio Newsroom