Plan for housing unveiled

February 3, 2019

When Judy Wendt fell and broke her femur two months ago, she wished she lived closer to Fort Wayne.

That wish will become reality when Wendt and her husband, Ted, move from Warsaw into Piper Trail, the new pocket neighborhood on Fort Wayne’s southwest side.

Designed by architect Dodd Kattman of Fort Wayne’s MKM architecture + design, Piper Trail is a newer concept in active senior living from Lutheran Life Villages.

A pocket neighborhood is a small community of homes or apartments that share a common space. It is intentionally designed to be small enough for meaningful interactions among the residents, and to make pedestrian traffic a priority over auto traffic.

“The concept of pocket neighborhoods has been gaining traction in the Pacific Northwest mainly because land prices are so high,” Kattman said.

Bringing the concept to northeast Indiana is not a reaction to land price, he said, but a demand for pedestrian-centered neighborhoods where the priority is people and not cars.

“We’ve been watching what’s happening around the country, and how we can meet the current demands for staying in the home as a person ages,” Lutheran Life Villages President and Chief Operating Officer Alex Kiefer said.

Both Kattman and Kiefer said socialization and the need for community among seniors is driving the design of Piper Trail, a $17 million project on the 12 acres around Lutheran Life Villages’ Village of Brookwood on Glencarin Boulevard. Piper Trail will include a clubhouse with a bistro, fitness space and gathering spaces where residents can attend or host gatherings. The 48 one-story cottages with front porches will be clustered in groups of 12, with a walking path all the way around, and cottage greens for each grouping.

Ross Chapin, an architect in Langley, Washington, has more than two decades of experience in designing pocket neighborhoods.

“We’ve become marooned in our dream homes,” Chapin said. The typical modern American community features homes with large garages facing the street. Front porches have become “grand porticos” or have been reduced to “key fumbling size” and are strictly for entering and exiting the house.

“It’s fine when kids and dogs hold us together, but as we age friends and family move on or pass on, and we become more isolated.” Chapin said one-third of Americans over age 65 live alone and that number increases to one-half by the age of 80. Chapin, who is involved in the design of pocket neighborhoods in Zionsville and Carmel, was instrumental in establishing a Cottage Housing Development zoning code provision in Langley, Washington, more than 20 years ago. The provision allowed eight cottage homes to be clustered on property that was previously zoned for only four single-family homes.

“This was the first contemporary pocket neighborhood that ... confirmed there is a market for cottages designed for one and two-person households in a community-oriented setting,” Chapin said in a telephone interview. Chapin has designed pocket neighborhoods for seniors as well as a number of family neighborhoods and intergenerational communities that draw young families as well as senior citizens.

“The shared common space in front of the homes means that residents can see what is happening in the area. If a person falls or a child runs out of the yard into that space, someone is going to see. If there is a stranger walking around, someone will see that as well,” Chapin said.

Chapin applauds the Piper Trail design for its room-size front porches that allow the resident to spend time outdoors among other people in the neighborhood even if mobility is an issue.

Like Chapin’s concept for pocket neighborhoods, the front porches at Piper Trail are close to the sidewalk, much like homes built in the 1940s and ’50s.

An area of landscaping between the sidewalk and the porch will provide a buffer zone.

“It’s a good blend of public and private space. You can talk to your neighbors from the porch,” Kattman said.

Kitchens are at the front of the cottages so that as residents prepare a meal, they can see the activity outside. Private spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms are at the back of the cottage. Two-car garages are on alleys also at the back so that car traffic doesn’t interfere with walkways. Parallel parking will be available on through streets.

While Fort Wayne neighborhoods like Southwood Park, Forest Park, Lake and State and the Wells Street area are appealing to buyers in the general housing market, Kattman said, among older adults, the appeal of a place like Piper Trail is that the homes are new, and have modern conveniences with fewer problems associated with older homes. They will also be maintained by Lutheran Life Villages so residents do not have to worry about finding services to do repairs or take care of the lawn and landscaping or snow removal.

The social benefits of this kind of neighborhood are important to the health and well-being of seniors, who often find themselves isolated, he added.

“Having a community and a walkable neighborhood adds to their quality of life, their spiritual wellness and their social wellness,” Kattman said.

Those are the advantages that the Wendts look forward to when Piper Trail is ready for occupancy. They are among the 15 “founders” who have paid a deposit that is 10 percent of a one-time entry fee of that starts just under $200,000. Kiefer said this is varies depending on the cottage chosen, and is typically funded by the sale of the prospective resident’s home. The fee is partially refundable when residents move from Piper Trail. The founders also select their cottage, its location and desired features. Construction by Star Homes of Fort Wayne is expected to begin when 70 percent of the 48 cottages are reserved.

There are eight floor plans, all of which feature either one bedroom and a den or two bedrooms, as well as a bath and a half or two bathrooms. Cottage sizes range from just over 1,100 square feet to just under 1,700 square feet. Lutheran Life Villages retains ownership of the cottages, and residents pay a monthly service fee starting at $1,500 depending on the size of the cottage. The fee includes inside and outside maintenance as well as utilities, internet, television and phone.

“We have a sizable home and a sizable property and it’s just too big for us,” said Ted Wendt, who has lived in Warsaw since going to work at Zimmer in 1994. He retired in 2004.

Before his wife’s fall, the couple had decided to sign on to the concept of Piper Trail. Ted, who is 78, began looking for a new living situation a few years ago when Judy, 76, had ovarian cancer and he was her primary caregiver.

“I like that Piper Trail emphasizes building community rather than privacy. Privacy is good, but I like the idea of community,” he added.

The walkability of the grounds and the opportunities for socializing as well as having someone to take care of the property both outside and inside sealed the deal for the Wendts.

“We tend to do a lot of shopping and going to restaurants in Fort Wayne, so we’re looking forward to being closer,” said Judy Wendt, who also likes that her doctors will be nearby.

The couple is already getting to know their future neighbors at monthly gatherings at local restaurants. “We’re all going through the same things like downsizing and leaving our homes. If you have any uncertainty about the decision to move, the anxiety just melts away when you know that we’re all in the same boat.”

To learn more about Piper Trail, go to www.pipertrail.com. For information about pocket neighborhoods, go to http://pocket-neighborhoods.net/index.html.

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