The Hoagland Masterson Neighborhood has been in transition for generations. Forgotten for decades the community is turning a corner and the old Fort Wayne neighborhood is showing signs of new life.
Unfortunately, a lot of legacy infrastructure hinders the greatness of its comeback. Sidewalks were, until a few years ago, crumbling. Intersections are designed more for cars than people, and streets are dedicated to getting cars about quickly. This has a chilling effect on the feeling of safety within an urban community. People simply don’t move about a neighborhood where they feel unsafe, even if the scary part is traffic driving down their streets.
In 2019 neighborhood leaders invited the ATC to explore their community and experience life from their perspective. From that came the idea of closing off two “merge lane” type streets that were designed in the 1960’s for General Electric workers – these lanes essentially turned Taylor Street, in Fort Wayne into a highway for shift workers. The design causes drivers to travel very quickly through the Hoagland Masterson neighborhood, much faster than the posted speed limit.
Working collaboratively with the ATC, Hoagland Masterson Neighborhood, Fort Wayne Public Works and Health by Design worked with the Indiana State Department of Health on a traffic calming project that would test the feasibility of closing those “merge lanes”.
A three week experiment was funded through a $10,000.00 Tactical Urbanism grant by ISDH, and included control structures that closed down the two merge lanes and a dedicated left-hand turn lane on Fairfield Avenue. With the road sections closed the neighborhood and ATC members spent hours cleaning brush and debris from public right-of-way to developed a pop-up “parklet” that was used for seating and programming.
UPDATE: As of October 2020, the City of Fort Wayne as determined the short-term experimental closure to be of value to the neighborhood and City, and has chosen to close the “merge lanes” indefinitely using quasi-permanent barriers.
“I use it about once a week but when I noticed it was closed I simply went straight onto Fairfield and it didn’t slow me down one bit. Hope it ends up becoming a park permanently!”
“It’s better now, less traffic.”
“I cannot believe how much difference in traffic noise at night with that area blocked. Another of your great ideas.BRAVO!!”
“I was wondering what they were doing there. I drive the pigtails everyday, but will happily detour for this space to be reclaimed for art and park space.”
“I’m loving this already..a lot less traffic And it’s rush hour and seen no issue on Taylor or Fairfield.”
“Sounds like a cool idea!”
During one weekend the neighborhood decided to paint temporary murals and artworks on the closed street. It was also given (an unofficial) name, August Park, after a well-know neighborhood founder and business owner.