FORT WAYNE – The models are done, the renderings complete, but the thinking officials hope they will spark has just begun.
The Design Center on Wednesday unveiled the results of Vision Fort Wayne 2013, a collaboration of several Fort Wayne agencies to hire Ball State University architectural students as part-time interns to help envision downtown.
The showpiece is a massive, 3-D rendering of downtown Fort Wayne. But the buildings and features are not attached, allowing the pieces to be moved around.
We can, say, just remove this entire block of downtown and move it over here and see how it affects everything, said Nick Hoch, one of this years Design Center participants.
The Design Center project began last year with three students creating a three-dimensional model of downtown and a video fly-through from the north entrance of Parkview Field, up Harrison Street, to the St. Marys River. They also worked on envisioning an entertainment venue and connectivity between that venue, Harrison Square and the river.
The project has a $30,000 budget, funded by the city, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance, the Downtown Improvement District and architecture firms and businesses that have donated space and furniture.
The students in the program this year concentrated on options for the block just west of Parkview Field. The Redevelopment Commission has bought almost the entire block and is looking for a developer to build urban townhomes. Demolition of the houses in the block is expected to begin within a month.
Hock and Fabiola Yep – both graduate students in architecture at Ball State – said one major benefit to the Design Center is they had no restrictions, allowing them to push ideas as far as they could go.
They designed modern townhomes that incorporate classic brownstone features. For example, most brownstones are raised four to five feet above the sidewalk.
The structure is pushed right to the street for that urban feel, but the elevation gives it privacy and that brownstone feel, Yep said.
In this version, that five-foot elevation allows parking below, with only five feet of excavation.
That provides the parking needed but also leaves space for a courtyard so the units look out on green space instead of a parking lot.
The students also looked at the possibility of another entertainment venue downtown. Because Memorial Coliseum and Embassy Theatre are on different ends of the spectrum, there may be room for a midsize venue that would hold 3,000 to 5,000 people but still have the intimacy of a modern, urban space.
While the project was essentially a summer-long thought exercise, participants said its the kind of exercise that can lead to a solid identity for Fort Wayne.
The strength of our city is working together, Hoch said. Who are we? What do we want to be?