Near-downtown neighborhoods can vie for image, design consulting in “brackets” contest

March 16th, 2016

News Coverage:

March 14, 2016

Near-downtown neighborhoods can vie for image, design consulting in "brackets" contest

Kevin Kilbane

Near-downtown Fort Wayne neighborhoods can get in on some college basketball tourney-style fun and possibly win some valuable consulting work during the March Fort Wayne-ness contest, which kicks off Tuesday on the Facebook page of the local Hoch Associates architectural firm.

Up for grabs — along with bragging rights — is about $15,000 in consulting work to help the winning neighborhood plan to become more walkable; create an identity or brand and logo; and develop design plans for revitalizing a small portion of the neighborhood, said Dan Kennedy, Hoch Associates' marketing director.

"There has been a lot of emphasis on downtown, which is great," said Kennedy, whose firm is involved in a lot of work downtown. "We believe to feed the growth of downtown, near-neighborhoods are going to be essential."

As of Monday afternoon, Hoch Associates' Facebook posts about the contest — and people sharing those posts — had resulted in the contest info being seen by about 7,000 people, Kennedy said.

Hoch Associates' partners on the project are Big Car Collaborative of Indianapolis and Wunderkammer Company of Fort Wayne. Big Car Collaborative "draws together people of all backgrounds to promote and perpetuate creativity, invigorate public places and support better neighborhoods," a news release said. Wunderkammer, 3402 Fairfield Ave., is a contemporary art center that also has been active in local efforts in entrepreneurship and building up neighborhoods and the community.

Urban planning and design research shows people want to live in walkable communities with some nearby amenities, such as small shops, in their neighborhood, Kennedy said.

In the case of Fort Wayne, the near-downtown neighborhoods would be within easy walking distance of downtown events, venues, shops and restaurants.

To promote neighborhood pride and create a little fun, Hoch Associates staff rolled out a map and selected 32 neighborhoods located in and around downtown, Kennedy said. Those neighborhoods randomly were assigned to a 32-slot bracket much like those used for the 64-team NCAA men's college basketball tournament bracket.

From 9 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on a given day, two pairs of neighborhoods will be pitted against each other. The "winners" will be the neighborhoods that gets the most comments about them that day on the Hoch Associates Facebook page,

The contest leads off Tuesday with Oxford vs. Northside and North Highlands vs. North Triangle, with the winners advancing to the round of 16.

There are no geographic restrictions, so a neighborhood can have people vote for it even though they don't live there. However, the voter must be a registered Facebook user, and he or she can vote only once per matchup.

The final two neighborhoods are scheduled to face off April 4 to name an overall winner, Kennedy said.

Hoch, Big Car Collaborative and Wunderkammer hope to begin working with the winning neighborhood by early May and to finish their work by late summer, Kennedy said. The partners also hope the winning neighborhood will be willing to serve as a consultant to the winner the next year.