HereSay: Neighborhoods of the future are rooted in Fort Wayne’s past

15 Aug 2016 11:36 PM | Kara Hackett

I never thought I would be a 25-year-old homeowner.

To tell you the truth, I never wanted to be.

I planned on renting for as long as possible, and then moving to an apartment downtown.

I like the rush of living in the city center, and I keep myself busy most days, so I never wanted the added upkeep of a house.

But when I was looking for my next place to live at the end of last year, I found the best deal on a small Cape Cod on the south side of downtown, and I decided to buy.

Now that I have a house, I love my neighborhood with front porches and long winding sidewalks to walk my dog. My friends live only a few blocks away, so we can still walk to each other’s houses. I can even bike to work if I’m feeling really ambitious.

If you ask me, that’s what makes living outside of downtown doable—and even preferable to cramming into a tiny apartment. It’s having a close-knit community, places you can go for food and coffee nearby and public spaces like parks in close proximity.

Thanks to a new project coordinated by the Hoch Associates architectural firm, we might soon have more near downtown neighborhoods with all of these amenities and more.

On Friday night, Hoch is unveiling its plans for what could be the first of many “20-minute neighborhoods” near downtown Fort Wayne.

A 20-minute neighborhood is a place where residents can do all of their daily, non-work activities within a 20-minute walk or bike ride of their homes.

Portland, Oregon, popularized the term a few years back when they published the Portland Plan around the idea of walkable, bikeable neighborhoods to reduce the need for cars and attract a new generation of homebuyers. 

Now architects and interns at Hoch are trying to incorporate 20-minute plans into Fort Wayne’s 32 near downtown neighborhoods by providing leaders with actionable ideas to get started, one neighborhood at a time.

Back in March, Hoch hosted a March Madness bracket-style contest on its Facebook page to determine which near downtown neighborhood could raise the most spirit among its residents, and the winner was awarded $15,000 in free design plans and consultations.

The winning neighborhood was the Greater North Anthony area, which includes the North Anthony Area Association, Forest Park Boulevard Neighborhood Association and the North Anthony Corridor—home to popular attractions like the Firefly Coffee House, Sweets So Geek Confectionaries, Old Crown Coffee Roasters and the Wooden Nickel Records.

This summer, a team of three Hoch interns, Ball State University seniors Michael DePrez. Georgia Pogas and Jenna Hoch, mapped out the North Anthony area’s 20-minute plan.

They hopped on bikes and explored the area themselves, surveyed residents about what they wanted to see happen and convened meetings with neighborhood representatives and city planners.

The final designs will be released at the big reveal on Friday night.

Overall, the team says plans revolve around creating unified connections to downtown, beautifying storefronts, adding green spaces, slowing traffic and enhancing walkability.

“We’re trying to get people to see the neighborhoods that are already there,” said Jenna Hoch.

Beyond the trendiness of a Portland-inspired plan, there’s bigger reason why 20-minute neighborhoods work well in the areas around downtown.

While the term itself might be new to this area, City Council President Russ Jehl, R-2nd, said the concept actually dates back to the way many of Fort Wayne’s near downtown neighborhoods were originally designed.

Landscape architect George Kessler created a master plan in 1912 for the city’s neighborhoods, parks, and streets to function as interconnected, walkable areas that encouraged residents to mingle with each other and with nature. 

Along with Lakeside Park in the North Anthony area, Kessler also designed the area around Rudisill Boulevard, which explains why my neighborhood on the south side has some of the same core features.

Even so, Kessler’s designs have undergone other waves of development over the years as automobiles became the most popular form of transportation in the city.

So Jehl is excited about the potential for Hoch’s concepts to return neighborhoods to their former, walkable glory with hopes for amenities like grocery stores on the horizon.

Of course, the plans are only plans until residents raise money and work with city officials to make them happen. But the Hoch team said its designs are broken down into phases of development, so leaders can start with small improvements and build up to bigger goals over time.

As the Greater North Anthony area takes shape, let’s hope the idea for 20-minute neighborhoods spreads to other areas around town, too.

Northeast Indiana already has one of the most affordable housing markets in the nation, and studies show that while millennials like me are slower at buying homes than our parents’ generation, 9 out of 10 of us want to own a place of our own in a small, close-knit community. 

Perhaps the key to attracting homebuyers of the future is rooted in our past. 

See for Yourself
What: Greater North Anthony Neighborhood Design and Quality of Life Reveal
When: Friday, August 19, 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m.
Where: St. Joe Community Church at 2900 N Anthony Boulevard

HereSay, in partnership with YLNI, is a frequent blog about our say on what’s happening here.  It is written by YLNI member Kara Hackett, and the opinions are her own. Photo by Matt Thomas.

P.O. Box 10774
Fort Wayne, IN  46853

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