williams woodland park

Part 2- What Makes Healthy Neighborhoods, healthy?

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Williams Woodland Park NEIGHBORHOOD

Part 2 of a 5-part series where we interview the five neighborhoods that NeighborLink has invited to part of a 2019 comprehensive research project. Our desire is to learn what makes a healthy neighborhood healthy. These five Fort Wayne neighborhoods have been chosen for their unique socio-economics, demographics, geographic influences and levels of neighbor engagement at the association level.

Lyndsay and Charlie join NeighborLink for an insightful conversation about the Williams Woodland Park Neighborhood (WWPN). They describe their neighborhood dynamic, the projects they’ve been able to successfully accomplish, and what they think adds to the health of WWPN. One thing is for sure, WWPN has a strong social connection among its neighbors which positively impacts their ability to accomplish as much as they do. (Link to Map)

Williams Woodland Park is a small historically-designated neighborhood located just about a mile south of downtown Fort Wayne. WWPN was an early suburb that developed in the late 1800s to the 1910s with some infill that happened over the decades following. The homes range from smaller bungalow style to traditional four square homes to grand Victorian homes surpassing 5,000 sq ft. There were measures taken 20-30 years ago to change zoning to reduce the number of rental properties although many still exist. There is a wide range of ages of neighbors and is becoming a go-to neighborhood for younger families looking to raise their families in the central core. With the current real estate market, move-in ready homes in the Williams Woodland Neighborhood are usually sold before they even hit the market and the ones on the fringes are being picked up by neighbors with the income to invest in preserving the home to make sure its setup to last another 100 years.

Andrew Hoffman, the Executive Director of NeighborLink feels particularly biased about WWPN because his family lives there and loves being in this neighborhood. “We decided to move into WWPN about 11 years ago after determining that proximity matters, and if we’re going to be intentional with integrating our desires for being active in the community we serve in more fully, then we should really consider where we live. We didn’t do this alone or even necessarily choose WWPN on our own, we did this with another family. We knew that at least we’d have some friends in this new neighborhood. What we quickly found out as we were looking for the right house to buy in the first year, that there was a thriving neighborhood full of people that wanted to more people to join them. We met so many neighbors while we looked for a house and felt relationally connected without even living there. We HAD to buy a house there and we couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Lyndsay (and her husband Raul) as well as Charlie (and his wife Nancy) describe their neighborhood as one where if your looking at a home to buy and you are out on the sidewalk during good weather days, its almost certain you’ll be approached by a number of neighbors eager to introduce themselves, tell you all about the neighborhood, and encourage you to buy the house. That’s truly special and not all neighborhoods have that pride. As Charlie and Lyndsay discuss, the spirit in WWPN goes back 30-40 years as the generation before made intentional decisions to live there and begin a culture of social connectivity, neighborhood pride, and creating strong initiatives to create the space they wanted to live in. Many of the neighbors that moved in a generation ago are still there and as active as ever alongside all the younger families that have moved in. For several families they are the kids who grew up in WWPN and are now raising their own families there.

Unique to WWPN is their annual Holiday Home Tour that draws people from all over Fort Wayne to tour its historic homes. This event generates sizable revenue that the association uses to fund neighborhood events, incentivize homeowners to make beautification improvements, and common area improvements such as historic street signs with flower baskets that hang from them during the spring and summer. A historic neighborhood generating revenue through an event is not a new concept and not exclusive to the neighborhoods that we research, but it is very uncommon in general yet does have an impact on various aspect of neighborhood health. Any time there are resources to be spent on behalf of the neighborhoods, neighbors are going openly share their opinions on what the funds should be spent on.

Michelle and I really love our neighborhood and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. It has been interesting to watch the neighborhood develop over the past decade and see our property values go up significantly in the past two years. We aren’t sure we could afford to buy here if we hadn’t moved in when we did, which creates a lot of conversations on the impact of gentrification and how we as neighbors are or aren’t contributing to that. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next 5-10 years and see if WWPN expands beyond its current smaller bounders in an effort to support neighborhood growth to the north or south of us as the demand for downtown housing continues to increase.

We’re looking forward to our next phase of the 2019 research project, which includes a two-hour workshop with neighbors from each of the five neighborhoods.