Community drives Waynedale turnaround
By Kimberly Dupps Truesdell for The Journal Gazette | The Journal Gazette
Tiered cakes with flowers made of icing and hand-piped details are on display in a large window of the brick storefront at 2610 Lower Huntington Road.
But inside the bakery owned by Chris Miller's family since 2001, there are display cases of doughnuts, cookies and pies. There are shelves with Waynedale Bakery's homemade bread and, if one is lucky, some deals on day-old items.
Regular customers, though, take a few more steps on the checkered tile floor and take a seat at the counter. There, they can get a cup of coffee and catch up on the day's news – whether it's politics or things going on in the community.
“We call ourself the information central. We try to stay informed on different things,” Miller says, adding that people will stop in the bakery to get directions to the BMV or ask where a business has moved.
Indeed, Alex Cornwell, publisher of the Waynedale News, calls the bakery the hub of the community.
City within a city
The heart of Waynedale is at the intersection of Bluffton and Lower Huntington roads.
There is a pharmacy and a grocery, restaurants and retail, service providers and other businesses. Some are national brands, such as Kroger and Walgreens, but there are several locally owned operations such as Hill's Meat Market and Umber's Do it Best.
“Everything that you need is in close proximity. It's just centrally located,” says Camille Garrison, marketing director of Kingston Residence of Fort Wayne. “We have all of the necessities right here.”
The area, which began as a farming community in the 1920s, is now a suburban neighborhood with subdivisions and community parks. It stretches north on Bluffton Road toward Engle Road, south to Airport Expressway and east toward Foster Park.
But Garrison, who has been active in Waynedale's business community for more than a dozen years, says the community is still close to other major areas of Fort Wayne.
Jefferson Pointe is a quick jaunt up Ardmore Avenue, and downtown is accessible via Bluffton Road.
Still, Cornwell says, Waynedale has maintained its own identity – even though the city annexed 5.27 miles of Waynedale in 1957.
“I think it's because Waynedale has its own brand,” Cornwell says. “You see things like the Waynedale News, Waynedale Plumbing Supply, Waynedale Bakery.”
Beulah Matczak says she's been involved in her neighborhood association – Southeast Waynedale – for so long that she can't remember for sure. But if the 69-year-old retiree had to guess, she says it's been 12 or 13 years.
“I wanted to get involved to help people, to get other people involved in their community,” she says. “If everyone works together, I thought that would be the way to do it.”
Residents of Waynedale, Garrison says, sometimes felt they were forgotten by the city of Fort Wayne and there was a negative feeling in the community. But by coming together, Matczak saw the potential for change.
“I wanted to improve the communication in Waynedale. Outside of our association, we're one community – no matter if we belong to our neighborhood association,” she says. “We'd like to see things done in Waynedale.”
At the time, Matczak says, Waynedale Park needed new playground equipment. The group made a list of priorities and applied for money from the city to update the space at 2900 Koons and Elzey streets.
When it was dedicated in 1958, it included a shelter, area to play basketball, some playground equipment, restrooms, picnic tables and benches. Now, there's a sprayground, tennis courts and a fitness trail.
“People are using the park,” Matczak says. “When I go by there in the summer to see if something needs cleaned up, I see all these families playing out there. ... It's wonderful out here.”
Trails in the mix
But Matczak couldn't stop at the park improvements. Once the group saw what they were able to accomplish, the Waynedale Community Improvement Team was formed.
“We were trying to think of something else to do to get involved,” Matczak says.
The group thought maybe they could get sidewalks or trails – and “we got sidewalks and trails.”
A 1.5-mile trail and sidewalk project along Bluffton Road – a push that began in 2012 and was led by the Waynedale Trails and Sidewalks Initiative – was recently completed.
Walkers, runners and cyclists can go from Foster Park West and travel down Bluffton Road to the heart of Waynedale, and a trail head at Fairfield Avenue, Tillman Road and Lower Huntington Road provides access to the area near Winchester Road.
“It's opened up a whole new way for people to access us,” says Garrison, who chairs the committee.
The group wrote a check to the city for more than $20,000 to help with the design work, she says, but the fundraising hasn't stopped.
Matczak and Garrison would like to see the trail extended or sidewalks installed on Lower Huntington Road toward Ardmore Avenue.
For now, though, the committee is getting ready to celebrate. A July 21 event will mark the completion of the trails and encourage people to get out and get on the trails, as well as support the local commerce.
Working on a plan
“We're enjoying the positivity, the momentum that we're feeling,” Garrison says. “The rest of the community, we're starting to see them get excited, too. It's exciting, what's happening. We have tons more goals.”
Among them is a development plan that the community is working on in cooperation with the city.
Garrison says the plan goes from the Waynedale Library to Old Trail Road and goes from Post 241 to the Colony Shops. There are seven goals that go along with it – including beautification, safe access, moving light poles and improving aesthetics.
“It's not going to happen overnight,” Garrison says. “It's a plan that will take anywhere from two to seven years.”
She says she's seen the community change in the 10 years since she began working at Kingston's Winchester Road location, and it's thanks to a core group of people who see the potential in Waynedale.
“Everyone should be passionate about where they live and work,” Cornwell says. “We chose this as a place to reside; why not take care of our choice?”