12 min read

April 25, 2023 | How safe are Fort Wayne's roads? • Local artists making it big • A nonprofit empowering women

April 25, 2023 | How safe are Fort Wayne's roads? • Local artists making it big • A nonprofit empowering women

Hey Locals,

We are SO excited to debut our new logo and newsletter header this week, designed by none other than the amazing (local) artist Matt Plett. Learn more about it on our Instagram!

This week, we examine the safety of Fort Wayne's roads and the role multimodal transit plays in calming traffic. Meanwhile, the City of Fort Wayne shares its climate change action plan and national placemaking reps visit town.

Here's what's ahead:

Talk of the Week

  • What's the role of cycling and multimodal transit in creating safer roads?

Small Talk

  • A local band earns fame via WWE
  • Local artist designs for Urban Outfitters
  • City shares climate action plan
  • Metro's discrimination report
  • School weapons meeting
  • A fun film project to watch

Local Spotlight

  • Meet Creative Women of the World


  • Start Fort Wayne's small-scale development meetup
  • Creator Space's second event
  • MKM's Fishbowl is back
  • PlacemakingUS visits the Fort
  • Liminal screening at Cinema Center
  • Trek the Trails returns

Now, let's get started!

"Our definition of creativity is: Seeing what is and imagining what could be."
-Lorelei VerLee, Founder of Creative Women of the World, shares how her team defines creativity in today's Local Spotlight.

Talk of the Week

The top story we're following.

What roles should cycling and multimodal transit play in Fort Wayne's roads?

That's a question being explored by residents in neighborhoods near Downtown.

Cars frequently cross into the unprotected bicycle lane on Fairfield Ave. near Brackenridge St.

What's happening?

  • The City of Fort Wayne announced Public Works is spending a record $48.3 million this year on neighborhood infrastructure improvements, up nearly $10 million from last year. This includes $39.2 million for streets, roads, and bridges; $6.4 million for sidewalks and alleys; and $2.7 million for trails.
  • Even so: Neighborhood groups, like Three Rivers Active Streets, feel funding is too heavily focused on moving cars through the city, rather than encouraging safe, convenient multimodal transit—specifically in and around Downtown.
  • For example: Bicycle infrastructure is not mentioned in the plan.

What are people saying?

  • Director of Public Works Shan Gunawardena says Fort Wayne's trails are intended to serve all levels of bicycle users, and the City has surveyed community members, finding residents prefer trails to more bike lanes on streets or adding protected bike lanes, which tend to only be utilized by experienced cyclists. “Overwhelmingly, the community is pushing us toward trails over protected bike lanes," he says.
  • Trails and bicycle infrastructure may also be included in funding for road reconstruction projects, if roads have been slated for this infrastructure in City planning documents. However, by and large, Public Works typically rehabs existing streets and roads in neighborhoods, rather than reconstructing them. "We are not adding more infrastructure; just replacing existing infrastructure with something new," Gunawardena says.
  • One challenge Kevin Brooks of Three Rivers Active Streets sees is: The system defines the user, in many ways. If safer, on-street biking opportunities existed between collar neighborhoods and Downtown, perhaps more residents would be inclined to cycle. While trails are effective, they're also costly to implement (to the tune of $800k-1.2 million per mile).
  • As a result: He and others are proposing the city become more proactive about systematically implementing safe cycling infrastructure on streets by reducing driving lanes to widen bicycle lanes. They're also calling for Fort Wayne to join the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) for $12,000 per year. NACTO includes 96 major North American cities and transit agencies that exchange transportation ideas, insights, and practices and cooperatively approach national transit issues.

Why it matters

  • As Fort Wayne plans for the future, it's worth questioning why and how our infrastructure is designed, and where improvements can be made, taking cues from what's working in other cities.
  • Nationally: Forward-thinking cities are reorienting their streets and roads toward multimodal transit, and it's yielding multiple benefits. Perhaps most notable: Cities with wider, protected and separated bike lanes have many as 44 percent fewer fatalities than average, meaning improved bicycle infrastructure serves drivers and cyclists alike.
  • Just last week: A local father, husband and partner at Barrett McNagny LLP, in Downtown Fort Wayne was killed from injuries sustained by being struck by a truck while using the crosswalk on Main Street. The vehicle was turning left on Calhoun and was driven by an on-duty Fort Wayne police officer. This senseless tragedy speaks to the need to rethink traffic calming Downtown. The City of Fort Wayne also announced a goal to reduce the number of cars on the road as part of its new science-backed climate action plan. Mayor Tom Henry plans to ask City Council for $250,000 annually as part of this goal. Details here.
  • Citizens can email their City Council representatives about Fort Wayne calming traffic Downtown with wider, on-street bike lanes and/or joining NACTO to improve its multimodal transit and public infrastructure. Tax dollars are spent to fund public works projects, so citizens should have a voice in the matter. Find your City Council rep here.
  • The City's Active Transportation Coalition (ATC) is another free public meeting anyone can attend to learn more about transit in Fort Wayne. It meets on the third Wednesday of each month at Citizen's Square or virtually. (Message the group on Facebook to join its mailing list.) In the past, the ATC has conducted Community Led Traffic Calming Demonstrations, and they're currently working to implement "Complete Streets" guidelines in Fort Wayne, which could also improve transit.
  • Tomorrow: The Northeastern Indiana Regional Coordinating Council (NIRCC) is hosting a public transit open house from 4-6 p.m. at the Omni Room (Room #045) of Citizens Square at 200 E, Berry St. (The meeting is also available to attend virtually.) Residents can review NIRCC's Draft Fiscal Year 2024-2028 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and Draft Air Quality Conformity Document, along with project lists on regional transit, the 2040 Long Range Plan and the Ped-Bike Plan. See materials on the NIRCC's website or at its office. Public comment is open through May 5.

Take a look, and make your voice heard!

Small Talk

A few quick updates.

  • Downstait, a band formed by South Side High School grads, is making it big by producing music for WWE pro wrestlers. WPTA-TV says: "They might just be the most successful musicians to ever come out of the Summit City." The group got their break producing a theme song for wrestler, The Miz, called  “I Came to Play," which has more than 9 million streams on Spotify. Since then, other hits, like “Kingdom” for the wrestler Cody Rhodes, have yielded more than 20 million streams on Spotify alone. "The song has also been a chart-topper in multiple countries, hitting #2 in the U.S. and #1 in the U.K.," WPTA reports. Plus, the band still lives and works locally. Learn more here.
  • Fort Wayne's own @burger_babie is among a handful of national artists doing a special collab with Urban Outfitters this month as part of the retailer's Earth Month collection. Addeline Griswold is the Fort Wayne painter and illustrator behind the brand. UO calls her one of their "favorite artists" who "creates childlike art that makes people smile (but also raise an eyebrow when they take a closer look)." Shop her collection here!
  • The City of Fort Wayne released its science-backed climate change plan called Sustaining Fort Wayne. According to a 2019 study by climate scientists at Indiana University, "Fort Wayne could see a 336% increase in 90 degree days over the next 27 years, with a 125% increase in decadal extreme precipitation events if we don’t take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." The City's plan includes creating more green infrastructure, planting more trees to shade people and buildings during extreme heat, increasing its solar power use, decreasing its emissions from fleet vehicles and buses, reducing cars on the road, and capturing more greenhouse gases to convert to energy. The goal is to be net zero by 2030. To make it happen, Mayor Tom Henry plans to ask City Council for $250,000 annually. Learn more here.
  • The Fort Wayne Metropolitan Human Relations Commission conducted a first-of-its-kind study on perceived discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations in Fort Wayne. Last week, they presented the findings to City Council, detailing how people of different races, genders, and abilities feel they have experienced unfair treatment due to their differences. See the full study here.
  • Penny Drip was nominated for Tales of the Cocktail Foundation's 2023 Spirited Awards® (like the Oscars, but for bars and restaurants). They're one of 10 national establishments up for "Best New Cocktail Bar" in the Central U.S.
  • Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS) has had nine weapons brought to its facilities this school year. As a result, officials are hosting a series of meetings on a "health and safety referendum," which, if approved by voters in November, would fund further safety initiatives, including student and mental health support staff, a weapons detection system, and security enhancements. Anyone can attend in-person or virtual meetings starting tonight. See dates here.
  • Johnny Perez of Mercado, Gentié Media Group and Sunspace Studios posted a preview of an epic film project they're working on to promote Perez's group Te Gustó Hospitality. Watch the trailer here, and stay tuned to Mercado's Instagram for details.
  • The Fort Wayne Media Collaborative, a group of Fort Wayne news organizations reporting solutions-oriented stories on housing, evictions, and neighborhoods is seeking donations via the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne Inc. "Your gift to the Fort Wayne Media Collaborative will help us take on reporting projects that explore not only the reasons behind, but also the solutions to, the lack of affordable housing in northeast Indiana–especially for lower- and middle-income residents." Learn more, and donate here.

Local Spotlight

This Downtown organization is helping women near and far use their creativity to support their families and communities.

Empower Her World, a fundraiser for Creative Women of the World, took place Saturday on Earth Day. (Photo by Stephen J. Bailey)

This weekend, I (Kara) had the honor of emceeing a fundraiser called Empower Her World for the organization Creative Women of the World (CWOW). If you haven't heard of them, they are a great local nonprofit to check out!

You might know: CWOW has a fair-trade shop Downtown next to JK O'Donnell's at 125 W. Wayne St. It sells everything from fair-trade spices and coffee to home goods, sustainable fashion, jewelry, toys, and more.

Inside Creative Women of the World's shop at 125 W. Wayne St.

But did you know: CWOW also teaches hands-on business training for creatives in 11 countries and purchases affordable, mission-driven products from artisans in more than 50 countries to sell in Fort Wayne?

  • So far: More than 200 women have utilized CWOW's business training program to grow their small businesses and change their communities.
  • Even so: CWOW still has eight countries where its training is requested---hence, the need to raise funds to expand its programming!
  • One trainee doing amazing work is Patience Sombato of Ghana. She has utilized CWOW's training to design hand-sewn dresses, now sold in Fort Wayne to help her village establish more accessible amenities, like a grocery store, a pharmacy, and a clinic. See her dresses at CWOW's shop today!
  • While there: Learn about more artisans and communities CWOW supports by reading the tags on its products. Also, check out its LOTUS gallery, featuring about 20 local artists, including Cat People Press by Becky Stockert, Baskets by Janice Weaver, RELIC Emporium by Janelle Slone, Soul Dirt Stitchery by Christy Arbogast, Come Vibe With Me by Miranda Thomas and TwoFunTomatoes by Anastasia McNabb, just to name a few.
A panel of Fort Wayne women at Empower Her World, from left, are Stephanie Crandall, Clydia Early, Mary Encabo-Bischoff, Lorelei VerLee, and Erin McCarthy. (Photo by Stephen J. Bailey)

A few local women CWOW sees doing great work are:

  • Erin McCarthy, Executive Director of CWOW, and Lorelei VerLee, CWOW's Founder, of course! "We love doing this work," VerLee says. "Our definition of creativity is: Seeing what is and imagining what could be." McCarthy adds, “For women especially, creativity often serves as a means of challenging traditional gender roles and societal expectations. Similarly, CWOW believes that creativity is the spark needed to ignite the innovation and the empathy needed to establish a fairer future for us all.”
  • Stephanie Crandall, Chair of the Economic Security Subcommittee of the Women's Fund of Greater Fort Wayne, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the City, and a candidate for City Council, At-Large this Spring. “Stephanie is an unstoppable force when it comes to empowering women, especially when it comes to civic action and community engagement,” says McCarthy. “By helping other women amplify their voice, both at the ballot box and the town square, we are working toward building a more inclusive democracy that is representative for all.”
  • Clydia Early, Founder of BIPOCA Incubator and Gallery located at Wunderkammer Company and Co-Owner of Green Hair Revolution LLC, offering education, engagement and empowerment revolving around hair, body, and self-image. “Clydia has been such a blessing to work with at CWOW,” says McCarthy. “She truly understands the transformative power of creativity to bring people together to facilitate dialogue around important issues and greater opportunities for us all.”
  • Mary Encabo-Bischoff, a professor in the Department of English and Linguistics and Outreach Director for Special Programs for University Research and Innovation at Purdue Fort Wayne. "Mary has a great intercultural understanding, and this Spring, CWOW is working with her English 131 Service Learning Class for all freshmen, exploring the intersection of community and culture, as well as the roles of storytelling and nonprofits," VerLee says.

Learn more about CWOW on its website, Facebook and Instagram @gocwow. You can volunteer and donate online, too!


Our favorite events this week.

  • Start Fort Wayne and the Incremental Development Alliance are hosting a free small-scale development meetup tonight 5:30-7 p.m. for neighborhood advocates, empty lot property owners, local contractors and trades professionals, local representatives and land use professionals. "This is basically for anyone engaged with the built environment who wants to see the Greater Fort Wayne area more dense, diverse, and dapper!" its Facebook page says.
  • MKM architecture + design is bringing back its popular "Fishbowl" events. In case you haven't attended, the firm shuts down its offices every few months to host these free, public interviews with locals they're inspired by, featuring the challenges they're working to solve. "Topics range from artificial intelligence to toilet paper," MKM says. The next event is Thursday, 3:30-5 p.m., at MKM's office at 435 E. Brackenridge St. The speaker is Andrew Gritzmaker, past CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Fort Wayne, who "helped eliminate $2.5M in debt and revamp their building efforts which produced a 500% increase in annual housing production. In October 2022, he was named President and CEO of YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne." To register, call 260-422-0783, or reserve tickets here.
  • PlacemakingUS, a national nonprofit, is visiting Fort Wayne this week as part of its "Placemaking Train" trip across the U.S. on Amtrak. "The purpose of this trip is to visit with communities that are off the beaten path and are looking to increase their town's community cohesion, economic viability, creative output, equity, sustainability, and vivacity using placemaking," its website says. The group will be in Fort Wayne on Thursday, touring the community with neighborhood advocate Cornelia Schulz. Their day includes visiting Downtown, Electric Works, South East Fort Wayne, and Wunderkammer Company, where they're hosting a "community fireside chat" with Zero Empty Spaces starting at 4:30 p.m. Reserve your free spot here.
  • "Liminal: Indiana in the Anthropocene," is screening for free at Cinema Center Friday and Saturday. Friday night's screening at 7 p.m. includes a live performance by Nate Utesch of Metavari and a Q&A with the filmmakers following the film. Reserve your free tickets here!
  • Creator Space, a meetup for anyone who calls themselves "creative" in Fort Wayne, is hosting its second event Saturday, 5-7 p.m., in the Spectator Lounge at Cinema Center. Free food and a cash bar will be provided. Specific programming is TBA, but a large portion of the event will be dedicated to open networking, mingling, and sharing projects with fellow creators. "Get your business cards ready and bring anything you are working on currently!" its event page says. Learn more here.
  • Fort Wayne Trails is kicking off its weekly Trek the Trails and Tread the Trails events this coming Tuesday, May 2, at Salomon Farm Park Barn. Join the guided bike ride or walk/run at 6 p.m., and then return to Salomon Farm Park Barn for appetizers, a cash bar, good tunes, and a trail update from Fort Wayne Trails and the City from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, and free for children under 16 here.

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Have a great week, Locals!

-Your Editor, Kara Hackett