New study provides snapshot of people who live, work in downtown Fort Wayne

Downtown's population is growing faster than the rest of Fort Wayne, a new study suggests. (Photo courtesy Visit Fort Wayne)
Bill Brown (File photo by Kevin Leininger of The News-Sentinel)

Much has been written about efforts to bring new jobs, activities and residents to downtown Fort Wayne, but little has been known about the people who actually live and work there.

Until now, that is.

A new 44-page analysis conducted for the Downtown Improvement District by the Community Research Institute at IPFW offers perhaps the most comprehensive comparison profile to date of the 99-block downtown core, comparing the area with surrounding neighborhoods and the community as a whole.

Drawing primarily on information provided by Esri Community Analyst, a proprietary database, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Northeast Indiana Coordinating Council, the study indicates efforts to boost downtown population through the construction of new housing and other means appear to be working, with non-annexation population growth exceeding that of the entire city. The downtown area continues to lag in income, however, with its residents remaining slightly older than Fort Wayne’s general population.

Key findings include:

Between 2000 and 2017, DID’s population increased more than 14 percent compared about 5 percent for Fort Wayne.

More than 79 percent of Fort Wayne residents live in family households compared to about 20 percent of DID residents. Did residents also earn less, with a median household income of $22,593 compared to $45,805 for Fort Wayne.

Despite efforts to attract more “millennials” downtown, the DID’s median age is 36.2 years as compared to 35.8 years for Fort Wayne.

Downtown continues to have well more than double the rate of renters (80.5 percent in the DID vs. 35.7 overall).

Fewer DID residents work in the service sector than Fort Wayne:

Eighteen percent of Fort Wayne residents work in the service sector compared to 13.8 percent within the DID, which continues to be a center of employment as compared to the entire city. DID’s employee-to-resident ratio is 763:100; Fort Wayne’s is 68:100. DID is also home to northeast Indiana’s finance and insurance employees, with almost a quarter of its workers employed in finance and insurance establishments. For Fort Wayne, that represents just 6 percent of the workforce.

The second-largest DID employee cluster is public administration, at 20.7 percent, and 23 percent of DID’s businesses are in professional, scientific and technical services. Manufacturing is not a significant DID industry, at 1.4 percent.

More than 40 percent of DID workers live north of downtown, which makes it logical that more people enter and exit DID from the north.

Some of downtown’s unique figures skewed the results, the analysts reported.

At 46 percent, the DID has a disproportionately large number of people living in “group quarters,” defined as something other than a house, apartment, mobile home or rented room. Overall, Fort Wayne has 2.1 percent living in group quarters. Downtown is home to the Allen County Jail, nursing homes and homeless shelters.

The jail also affects DID’s racial and gender statistics. The DID has more black residents as a percent of population (27.4) than Fort Wayne (15.6). DID also skews disproportionately male, 68 percent vs. 48 percent for the city. When the jail population is removed from consideration, DID’s racial and gender composition looks more similar to Fort Wayne’s.

The DID is primarily funded by the city, county and downtown property owners and works to promote activity in Downtown Fort Wayne. President Bill Brown said the study’s results will be helpful when marketing the area to prospective restaurants, shops, housing, businesses and others.