Calhoun widening: Friends of the Parks statement

Sketch of Calhoun Street widening project, courtesy of the City.

Noel Knox delivered this statement from The Friends of the Parks of Allen County during last evening’s citizen open microphone time at the City Council meeting:

Thank you for your time and attention.

My name is Noel Knox . I work downtown on West Berry Street.

I appear before you this evening as a board member of The Friends of the Parks of Allen County, Indiana, Inc. and am here to share The Friends of the Parks’ position on the proposed Calhoun Street project.

Please consider, therefore, these our written comments.

As you know, the mission of The Friends of the Parks’ is to

Promote the stewardship and celebration of
the scenic, historic, and recreational
resources of the parks and public spaces
in Fort Wayne and Allen County.

Simply put, The Friends of the Parks oppose the Calhoun Street project plan as currently proposed. More specifically we oppose widening Calhoun Street as part of the project.

While The Friends of the Parks do concur with the City of Fort Wayne’s planners that making Calhoun Street two -way is an appropriate course of action, we must oppose the planned project for the following reasons:

First and most importantly, we oppose this plan because it has been crafted by the Board of Public Works staff without public involvement in the planning process. Such active involvement, we believe, is essential in understanding the real needs of the public downtown as well as in taking advantage of informed citizens’ ideas and insights.

Unfortunately, in contrast to an open planning process, upon inquiry by interested citizens members of City Staff have characterized the project as a “done deal”. We are absolutely not satisfied in ceding decisions regarding changes to our public space to a limited group of individual staff people at the City with no public input at all.

In contrast the Friends of the Parks believe that only through an open, public dialogue and planning process can a public project achieve the greatest public benefit and long term community value.

The Friends of the Parks believe that the citizens whose businesses and property values and quality of life will be affected by changes in the public landscape should have the opportunity to be a part of this planning process.

Next, commenting specifically on the plan put forward by the City for the Calhoun Street project, we believe that, if implemented, this plan will greatly diminish a highly valued public space. The quality of the pedestrian experience will be critically impacted, and the most welcoming quality of this part of downtown Fort Wayne will be lost.

Third, The Friends of the Parks believe, despite City assertions to the contrary, that this version of the Calhoun Street project plan will negatively impact and frustrate the intentions of the Blueprint Plus plan. The City’s plan emphasizes the single value of loading and unloading trucks with no significant gain in traffic circulation and ignores the values of a rich pedestrian experience and the considerations of the businesses along the street.

Lastly, we believe that this project is an unnecessary expenditure of public funds. This is especially so when after spending public money, public value is destroyed.

In conclusion, The Friends of the Parks ask that the City carefully refer to the established tenets of the Blueprint Plus plan. We believe that the Redevelopment Commission and the Board of Public Works are obligated to design and construct projects, including the Calhoun Street project, that reflect those tenets.

Thank you for your consideration.

The Friends of the Parks website

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