Those are just some of the big ideas for downtown Fort Wayne presented by freshmen at New Tech Academy at Wayne High School during a special event Wednesday in the main hallway at the Grand Wayne Convention Center.
“The mayor and deputy mayor wanted to get more ideas on what this generation wants to see,” said Jeff Roberts, a New Tech social studies teacher who worked on the project with Sheyann Pace, a New Tech language arts teacher. This is the fifth year New Tech Academy has done this project with students.
Freshmen were divided into several groups, and each group had to develop and sketch out a new design for the central area of Fort Wayne that would help people connect and move back into the city. Students didn’t have to worry about the cost.
Roberts and Pace began by introducing students to the concepts of urbanization, urban sprawl, demographics and other information they needed for the project. They then turned the groups loose to think creatively.
Along the way, students also had to learn to work together as a team to decide on their overall design plan, Roberts and Pace said.
Group B’s plan included an overhead gondola to carry people from the current train tracks downtown to the confluence of the three rivers, group member Adriel Willis said.
They also proposed stadiums for a Major League Soccer team and for amateur futsol, a fast-moving version of soccer played on a smaller field, group member Victor Patino Ramirez said. Other features in their design plan included an aquarium, planetarium, paintball complex and the stadium for medieval-style battles.
“There are a lot of people who like that medieval stuff,” group member Caleb Wetzel said.
Group A planned to offer a lot of entertainment, with an aquarium, football stadium, boardwalk, drive-in movie theater and the giant Hershey’s Kiss-shaped candy factory.
Group G tried to create a plan that would allow people to raise families without having to leave the central city area.
That included housing in the four corners of their development plan, with an elevated monorail serving downtown and three of the housing areas. Residents could attend school from kindergarten through college without having to leave the downtown area, group member Kamden Warren said.
Group G also proposed an adventure park with indoor and outdoor rides, an arcade and more, and a stadium for a professional football team. Members also were excited about their plan’s cultural district, which would bring all types of people together to experience cultures from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America, member Henry Wartenberg said.
Formulating their development plans really makes students think critically about where to locate buildings and amenities, Pace said. They also learn to communicate with each other and with the guests who asked them Wednesday about their design plans.
At the same time, the project also covers many of the concepts freshmen must learn to meet state educational standards, Roberts said.
Frank Howard, director of marketing, environmental and business services for the Downtown Improvement District, was impressed with students’ plans.
Everyone has ideas, but you have to be able to provide reasons why your idea should be included in the design, said Howard, one of numerous community leaders who stopped by to ask each student group about their plans. The city will have to be more responsive to young people’s ideas and suggestions if it wants to keep them engaged with downtown, he added.
Roberts and Pace hope the project also helps students feel more comfortable communicating with local community and business leaders, which can lead to internships and making Fort Wayne a better community.
“Hopefully,” Roberts said, “there is a collaboration where the kids say, ‘I can talk to them about things.'”