In a week where good news was hard to come by, plans for a new Neighborhood Health facility at the former Ward Elementary School were certainly welcome.
As we noted in September, preserving the vacant school building is important in bolstering southeast Fort Wayne and the Oxford neighborhood.
Fort Wayne Community Schools officials, who put a demolition plan on hold at the urging of neighborhood residents and historic preservation officials, said they will transfer ownership of Ward to Neighborhood Health at no cost. The L.C. Ward Education Center, an alternative school, has been vacant since 2017.
Angie Zaegel, chief executive officer of Neighborhood Health, said the building at 3501 Warsaw St. will be used to provide medical, dental, vision and behavioral health services. The agency also is looking into adding pharmacy services and options for healthy food resources.
“This building will play a critical role in expanding and strengthening our ability to deliver comprehensive, quality health care regardless of socioeconomic status,” she said in a statement. “It is well positioned to fulfill our vision of building healthier communities, closing the gaps in health disparities, and inspiring hope, healing, and encouragement to the lives we touch.”
City Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, who represents the district where Ward is located, said she is pleased the building will have a new use.
“I am hoping there still will be room for some sort of a community center,” she said. “I'm very glad it's going to have an additional point of access to health care. That will give great opportunity for residents to not have to use emergency room services as their primary care physician. For that, I am excited.”
Tucker said she's hopeful the project will be a catalyst for changing the footprint of the community, prompting new infrastructure and beautification efforts.
For now, the announcement means preservation of a historic building, demolition costs saved and another vacant lot avoided. We'll take it as a win.