In late 2015, the City of Fort Wayne issued a request for proposals on a riverfront community park. Design Collaborative began to imagine what this park could be and how they could deliver a project as grand as the dreams of the community. The challenge of deeply involving the community was listening to and implementing everyone’s thoughts and opinions on a large project with a tight timeframe. A collaborative team of firms assembled to develop a creative solution. The team committed to make the park a place for everyone, celebrating regional pride.
Three large rivers flow around the City of Fort Wayne, but a divide existed between the rivers and the people. The water was not easily accessible and was often built around instead of integrated into city planning. The riverfront design team worked on changing the community’s view of the rivers into one of recreation, community, and connection by implementing the Fort Wayne rivers into the park.
The team also met with many focus groups to get their opinion on the built environment. The groups ranged from young individuals to businesses with a long history of living and working in downtown Fort Wayne, as well as groups that could address users with special needs such as The League’s group of individuals with visual impairments and Turnstone – a group that empowers people with disabilities through community, therapy, and Paralympic training. Turnstone helped the riverfront design team organize focus groups with blind athletes, individuals with challenging sensory disorders, and Parkinson’s disease. The design team listened and talked to everyone they met with and were able to implement various strategies to truly make the park a place for everyone.
The intent of the new park was also to give people a sense of pride and ownership. It was designed with built-in seating and large bench swings to encourage social connections. The park was also designed with loose furniture that wasn’t locked down and always accessible equipment for park games, such as ping pong paddles, emphasizing the trust put in the community. Knowing that the park belongs to the people, the belief is the community will take care of the park.
Throughout the design and construction process, constant feedback was received from the community and everyone involved, and the plans changed and developed into the best possible space. The Grand Opening Celebration was held for Promenade Park on August 9-11, 2019. Approximately 35,000 people came to celebrate the park that weekend. Park visitors continue to visit the park and enjoy all the amenities it offers, including the PNC playground, Parkview Tree Canopy Trail, Friends of the Rivers “Sweet Breeze” boat tours, ping pong tables, corn hole games, foosball, Doermer Kids’ Canal, Park Foundation Pavilion, concerts at the Sweetwater Bandshell, Trubble Riverside Café and Tap, and historic Wells Street Bridge. Promenade Park truly became a place for the community and of the community.