The City of Fort Wayne, Indiana, has a rich history of Native American and European settlers who strategically designed fortified camps at the confluence of three rivers – evolving into the now modern city. In recent years civic leaders recognized the value of creating riverfront attractions that strengthen their downtown into a regional destination.
Following the creation of a conceptual master plan, our team provided landscape architectural design and documentation for Phase 1 of the St. Mary’s riverfront improvements – a new waterfront amenity, Promenade Park. Through a series of design charrettes and presentations, the team generated design solutions to meet the expectations of the local community. The outcome of the charrettes was to increase recreational use of the river, provide dining and entertainment venues, allow programmed events, be universally accessible, restore river ecology and enhance bio-diversity through sustainable design. The result is a riverfront that now gives the community direct access to the St. Mary’s river and opportunities to experience the ebbs, flows, and sounds of nature, and an equitable landscape for people of all ages, races, physical abilities, and economic situations.
The landscape architects led the development of the design, documentation and construction administration for all site improvements. The design process included a collaborative approach with experts in landscape architecture, architecture, art, civil engineering, structural engineering, soils consultant, lighting consultant, MEP, branding, graphics, and way-finding. During construction, the landscape architect worked very closely with the contractor, client and other allied professionals to deliver the project on time and on budget. This project was a collaborative and inclusive dialogue between the design team, the City of Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation, USACE, the Implementation Committee, the Community Foundation, selected stakeholders, and government agencies.
The river experiences seasonal water elevation fluctuations of seven plus feet, regularly depending on storm events upstream. The form of the design needed to incorporate this ever changing dynamic in both form and usability. Concrete, steel and hardwood were used to create a durable and lasting space that defects water and debris and is easily maintainable.
Universal accessibility was a key design element in the park that contributed to the overall design. A 6” wide tactile ribbon runs along pathways allowing the visually impaired to experience the park with more ease as they are guided to the waterfront. The pavement design incorporates frequent jointing in the patterning for those who struggle with depth perception, such as individuals with Parkinson’s disease, so they will not lose focus on the path. The large lawn has been reinforced with soil fibers to allow wheelchairs, crutches, or strollers easily access after a rain event. Amphitheater seating provides easy wheelchair access. North of the river, the playground features are accessible and sensory stimulating. The soft rubber surfacing allows wheelchairs to access each part of the playground while still providing a soft landing in case of a fall. Slides begin at the tree top walk so there are no ladders to climb to the top. At the river’s edge, all docks have detectable warning strips for those with visual impairment and a floating dock allows for the ability to hop into a kayak from a wheelchair.
In August of 2019, the Fort Wayne community celebrated the Grand Opening of its $20 million Promenade Park by attending a weekend packed with planned events and live entertainment. The final result was exhilarating, notably surpassing the client’s and the community’s expectations. As residents move back into downtown, they are connecting with the St. Mary’s River and creating economic development for the city of Fort Wayne. This community was starved for this type of development within its public realm and now enjoys a wide array of programmed activities including boating, kayaking, biking, commerce, community events, and natural scenery along its river. With the completion of Phase I of the Riverfront development, the three rivers, Maumee, St. Joseph, and St. Mary’s, are becoming the center of local life once again, and Promenade Park is the city’s newest and most vibrant destination!
Architecture offices involved in the design: Design Collaborative
Project location: Fort Wayne, Indiana, US
Design year: 2021
Year Built: 2019