Search this Site

Close

 

When you chat with a friend about a town or city you visited or passed through recently, the conversation usually lands on the “downtown” vibe, good eats, and storefront shops and bars inviting you to stop for a while. In fact, it’s tough to find a town that isn’t working hard to be a destination these days. Fort Wayne is no different, and if you’ve made the trip to downtown lately, you know exactly what I mean. Sadly, in your rush to meet your friends or hit that boutique before it closes, I would guess that you probably missed the best and most important part of any town, big or small – its neighborhoods.

 

Fort Wayne is blessed with hundreds of these tightknit, thriving neighborhoods – some storied and destinations themselves, others quietly serving their people year after year, drawing no attention and in little need of change. Just five minutes south of Fort Wayne’s downtown is another kind of neighborhood – the kind filled with every walk of life, a modern-day melting pot of cultures, and led by people of vision, pride and energy! Oxford.

Drum Circle Cookout Oxford Community Park Drum Circle Oxford Community Park
Drum Circle Cookout Oxford Community Park Drum Circle Oxford Community Park
Oxford Street Community Project Before

Full disclosure here, I never knew it existed. I’ve danced around its edges hundreds of times, hurrying from one corner of town to the other. Anthony, Rudisill, Lafayette and Pontiac – we’ve all traveled those streets…but we’re too focused on the next stoplight, in too much of a hurry to notice the heartbeat outside our window. Then the phone rang, and the DC family was about to get hit by a tsunami of positive energy and vision, also known as Jan and Diane, that would open the hearts of some, educate others, and most importantly remind a 30-year-old design firm why we do what we do and how we got were we are today.

Oxford Street Community Project Before

Oxford had a need. It turns out the street that bears the neighborhood name, and as I soon discovered is the center of all that is Oxford, had an unassuming, grassy lot that sits along Oxford’s main street. Neatly mowed and landscaped, the narrow gem is anchored by a majestic, fifty-year-old spruce and a pair of small, weeping fruit trees that flank a granite monument marking the history of the Oxford Neighborhood. Tucked between the neighborhood association building, Earl’s Barber Shop (everyone honks when they drive by) and the Eden Mart, the busiest little grocery and deli I’ve ever seen, it isn’t hard to give it passing glance, think, “That’s nice,” and move on. But Diane and Jan had something else in mind. They saw a place to gather-perform-celebrate, a place to rest an aching mind and soul at times, and a place that paints a picture for Oxford’s youth that says, “Anything is possible.”

Oxford Street Before
Oxford Street Before
Oxford Street Sign

Soon after the phone call, the DC Team found themselves guests standing in the middle of the grassy noll, fixated on Diane as she pointed, gestured and passionately described what she saw when she looked around. We didn’t know she had a background in dance, but we got it soon enough. Soon we were hooked. We walked around learning about the marker, the trees, how the kids have no place to gather or sit waiting on the bus, and how busy this little block of Fort Wayne was. At one point we tossed out a “what if we…” idea. Jan threw her keys in the air, stomped her foot and said, “Drop the mic…that’s what I’m talking about.” We all laughed and said, “Let’s get to work!”

Oxford Street Sign
Oxford Community Project Day One Oxford Community Project Chain Saw Oxford Community Project Chris Stine Oxford Community Project Build Day Oxford Community Project Build Day

Design Collaborative is excited and proud to help the Oxford Neighborhood realize their vision. The project is spread over two major on-site build days and plenty of smaller tasks in between. Build day one was a success, with the second build day coming up on October 15th, 2022. Keep a look out for part two of this special Oxford project!

Oxford Community Street Project Build Day One Oxford Street Tree Planting
Copyright ©2022 Design Collaborative