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  • Kayla Bliven, a freshman at New Tech Academy, points out the features of her group's redesign of downtown Fort Wayne to judges Mike and Barbara Roberts on Thursday morning at Grand Wayne Center. (Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette)

  • Hailey Graves, a freshman at New Tech Academy, points out the features of her group's redesign of downtown Fort Wayne to judge Barbara Roberts Thursday morning at the Grand Wayne Center.

Friday, May 25, 2018 1:00 am

Students share visions of city's future

New Tech Academy freshmen asked to redesign of the area

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Freshmen from New Tech Academy at Wayne High School have ideas about what might encourage people to stay in Fort Wayne – an innovation center, a tram system, European-style plazas and a STEAM park.

Thursday, they shared those blueprints with community members at Grand Wayne Center under the supervision of teachers Sheyann Straub and Jeff Roberts.

It's enjoyable to watch 14- and 15-year-olds carry intellectual conversations about bettering the city for the good of the community and not just for their own teenage desires, Straub said.

The freshman project required a collaborative redesign of downtown and the surrounding area bordered by State Boulevard, Coliseum Boulevard, Creighton Avenue and Hillegas Road.

Students Kayla Bliven, Chris Hartman, Mason Taylor and Hailey Graves agreed the assignment seemed daunting.

“It's such a huge space,” Bliven said.

“It was a lot of work,” Taylor said.

Students in previous years redesigned a smaller geographical area, said John Hudson, an associate architect at Viridian Architectural Design familiar with the project's history.

This year, students developed each quadrant around a focus, such as commercial and education, but they had an overall goal, such as retaining residents. Conversations between those planning each section were necessary to avoid duplicating certain features or to complement others, such as having a STEAM school in one quadrant and a STEAM park in another.

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Students' ideas also included a Ferris wheel modeled off of the London Eye, a concert hall, a farmers market and features highlighting the rivers.

Hartman said their ideas are doable “to an extent.”

Upperclassmen also contributed to the project.

Ben Dimino, a junior civil engineering student, planned an outdoor mall suggested for the redesign. Creating the site plan required research about the square footage needed for the various components and thought about where to put what, he said.

Hudson, the architect, was among those critiquing the students' work. To him, the event was more about listening to their ideas and thought processes. Overall, he said, the quality of conversation and ideas was worthwhile.

Along with students working under a challenging time frame, Hudson said, “they've never done this before.”