TEARING AT THE HEART – OF OUR CITY

Parkview North is deserting the eastern side of the city for the northeast DuPont area of Allen County. The project, which is to begin in a couple of months, has been in the works for almost five years and, no big surprise, received the approval of the Allen County Plan Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

A number of years ago, Lutheran packed up and moved to the southwest area of Allen County, leaving only St. Joe Hospital to truly serve the urban core. St. Joe has remained faithful to the City, remaining at its current location and expanding to provide even more services to those still living in the center of the city.

Parkview has simply joined a long line of businesses and individuals who have decided to flee the City, and, in the process, widen the doughnut hole – better known as urban sprawl. With no mandatory regulations to prohibit the moves outward, our city will continue to be pulled apart.

We discuss sprawl constantly, but on one wants to take the necessary steps to curb it because of the politics of doing so. A successful restoration of the urban core – businesses, neighborhoods, etc. – must be complemented by restrictions on subdivision expansion. But restricting subdivisions requires going toe-to-toe with real estate companies, land developers, construction companies, and financial institutions. A pretty tall order that most boards and commissions lack the guts to undertake.

Residents of sprawling neighborhoods tend to emit more pollution per person and suffer more traffic fatalities. Sprawl is also linked with increased obesity since walking and bicycling are not viable commuting options. Areas of urban sprawl are characterized as highly dependent on automobiles for transportation, a condition known as automobile dependency.

Most activities, including shopping, commuting to work, and entertainment, require the use of a car as a result of both the area’s isolation from the city and the isolation the area’s residential zones have from its industrial and commercial zones.

Walking and other methods of transit are not practical. While many of Allen County’s subdivisions have sidewalks, they serve primarily as walkways for mail persons. In many suburban communities, even stores and activities that are close by are contrived to be much further, by separating uses with fences, walls, and drainage ditches.

Until commissions and boards find the courage to challenge the forces that create sprawl, we will continue to see the city pulled apart by the sprawl that continues to affect the restoration of our City’s heart.

The Google Earth map above reflects the sprawl creeping outward to the Allen and Whitley County line to the west of Fort Wayne.

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About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
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5 Responses to TEARING AT THE HEART – OF OUR CITY

  1. John Good says:

    Char – You might be surprised by the activity level of the “sprawl residents” out here in Aboite. .you literally trip over people running, walking, and biking the streets and trails out here. It wears me out just to sit on the front porch and watch them go by! I, on the other hand, run all day long and just want to park when I get home.

  2. Hi John:

    I helped campaign for Chris Stewart last October in Aboite, but I can’t remember the name of the subdivision. I remember it was pretty cold, and we ran into Heather Heron – so whichever part she lived in. I know almost every home had a three-car garage. I began thinking about the reliance on automobiles, etc. I didn’t see any bus stops or any other forms of transportation.

    I probably am generalizing based on some of the articles I read. I know I see a lot of joggers go by my home on Thieme Drive, and I admire their energy. But I am so comfortable in my porch swing with the breeze blowing – I understand getting worn out just watching. 🙂

  3. Paul says:

    Once in a while I get out to Aboite township, and I see people “running, walking and biking”, but most seem to be doing so explicitly as exercise, not to actually go somewhere. The activity level isn’t the point, sprawl is, and coping with sprawl doesn’t mean just getting out to exercise, it means making walking or biking part of your daily life in place of using a car. In parts of Aboite you can reach some schools and churches along the bike paths, but much of it strikes me as beingg as bad as NW Allen County in the sprawl department.

    As a resident of NE Fort Wayne, and as someone who usually “commutes” by walking downtown, Parkview’s decision to move to the suburbs was a great disappointment. A lot of health workers live in our area, and I often see them walking to work. The possibility of that way of life is slipping away from our community just when more imaginative cities, such as Chicago, are returning to it. Fort Wayne, and while I’m on the subject Governor Daniels with his “Major Moves” obsession, are going full tilt ahead with pushing dependence on the automobile as though it were the 1950’s. BTW, If the Governor is still looking at some place to spend a few of those dollars, I could suggest diverting a few to improving the incredibly pedestrian unfriendly bridge and rail road overpass at the confluence of the St. Mary’s and St. Joseph Rivers.

    Curbing automobile dependency doesn’t mean getting people out to jog. It means getting people out of their cars, which isn’t the same thing.

  4. Gary says:

    Homeowners might be considering moving closer to where they work to reduce their transportation dependency. But that will also require creating communities within a community so that shopping and other amenities could be within walking distance or at a minimum accessible via bus transportation. But now they are going to cut bus transportation?

    With the cost of gas going up how will that effect the prospect of baseball downtown? Will baseball be a luxury that fewer people will consider enjoying?

  5. Paul says:

    Government at all levels has been subsidizing or otherwise encouraging low density development for at least three generations (government funded construction of the interstate highways, federal assistance for utility expansion (particularly water projects in the U.S. southwest), mortgage interest deduction on the income tax, property tax funding for public schools (encouraging self sorting by income), exclusionary zoning. The list goes on and on. Many of these programs were well intended, and some served us well in the short run, but not the long run (in my view the mortgage interest deduction immediately after World War II.) Given the then fresh experience of the Great Depression, and the then accepted wisdom of Keynesian economics, these actions were responsible.

    While high energy prices would, at first glance, seem to encourage smaller houses, living close to work and shopping, etc., letting the cost of energy push people back into the cities will run into resistance from a host of interests that have arisen over the years to take advantage of these programs, road construction engineering firms, house construction, the automotive industry. Depressingly I hear little talk coming from any of the presidential candidates about reviving cities or supporting mass transit. Instead I hear about government programs to make cars affordable to operate by improving their fuel economy or gas tax holidays.

    Its natural for politicians to take this approach. It doesn’t matter whether it is McCain or Obama talking, either one needs to win the suburbs to win the election. Gas prices have just reached the level where suburbanites are beginning to understand that the value of their houses is totally dependent upon cars being affordable to operate.

    Improved fuel economy is, I suppose, good for the environment assuming that the number of miles driven per person remains constant, but is that what will happen should we achieve an auto that costs $50,000 to buy new, but only an extra penny a mile to run (to stretch a point)? I fear that if people have to pay substantially more to buy cars, and come more and more to regard that as “an investment” rather than an expense, they will act in a way to “get their money’s worth” out of the vehicle and the sprawl will continue unabated.

    Given how much of our economy has been organized around real estate development and automobile manufacturing those of us who believe in the relative environmental soundness of high density living have to answer the fundamental question of what people will do if we were to remake the United States in the image of say modern Germany. A medium sized country like Germany can sort of keep its people employed by running massive annual trade surpluses exporting high quality manufactured goods. But what is an economy the size of the United States to do?

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