Investment in Greenwood

City Planning, Community Spotlight, Placemaking Resources

Greenwood, a suburb of Indianapolis, just south of the Marion County line in Johnson County, with a population of around 55,000 people, has big plans for their future and wants to take advantage of their location to increase their population, invest in the community, and increase the quality of life there.

Greenwood’s core is often known as “Old Town” and is characterized, now, by U.S. 31 which is a typical strip development with cars flying up and down the road through Greenwood. Some of the leadership, including the mayor, sees a different future for Greenwood, though. One which is more focused around the city core and which attracts people who are interested in investing in their community and continuing to improve it.

Some of these improvements in the downtown have already been made including local restaurants and breweries and an decrease in the downtown vacancy rate. The office and retail vacancy rate in the downtown used to be a whopping 75% but has decreased to only 10% currently. These investments in time, money, and effort into the downtown are to attract more visitors and residents and make Greenwood the “Fishers” or “Carmel” of the southside. Visitors are attracted to Indianapolis as well as the northside and Greenwood officials believe there is a market of interested parties to be captured on the southside. They began by investing in downtown buildings through facade grants. They plan to continue this with ” G.R.O.W. Greenwood Initiative, or Granting Revitalization and Opportunity for the Workplace. The $500,000 matching grant program offers local businesses matching funds to restore or enhance exteriors” Source.

The upcoming improvements include widening sidewalks downtown along Madison Avenue, installing an esplanade, and adding bicycle lanes. Another large project is to reuse the Greenwood Middle School building as a residential space. It is a 19 acre site complete with gymnasium which would be turned into a fitness center. Additionally there would be “a mix of apartments, condominiums and town homes in several buildings, with a parking garage at the south end wrapped by storefronts on the ground level and apartments above” Source. This could be a large draw, along with the other infrastructure improvements and investment by private developers, for visitors and residents alike to invest in Greenwood again not just as a commuter location but as a place of its own.

The Mayor of Greenwood, Mark Myers, states:

“I’ve seen it go from a thriving downtown to a declining downtown that pretty much was blighted, back to a thriving downtown, and it’s very exciting to see.”

Main Image Source: Greenwood Historic Commercial District

Hometown Collaboration Initiative

City Planning, Community Spotlight, Placemaking Resources

Indiana is a state made up of small towns, but these towns are often overlooked in favor of the bigger cities in the state and the region. The small towns, though, have an incredible amount to offer the state and the Hometown Collaboration Initiative is one way they can show that. This program, run by the Office of Rural and Community Affairs, along with the Purdue Center for Regional Development and Ball State University’s Indiana Communities Institute, is only for communities who have a self-identified population of 25,000 residents or less. This is the 5th year for the program with some of the communities who have been involved before including Seymour, Corydon, Auburn, Logansport, and Bremen, along with some on the county level.

The main goal of this program, targeted to smaller cities, towns, and communities, is “to develop a new generation of local leaders; build a supportive community environment for small business and entrepreneurs; or invest in place through creative quality of life initiatives related to public spaces, design, local foods, and tourism among others” Source. Oftentimes these things get pushed under the rug in bigger cities who have slightly larger budgets and in smaller cities they are just not often priorities. With this program, the communities selected are able to focus on these areas and cultivate a greater sense of place in their community.

The communities chosen for Generation 5, or the 5th year of the program, include:

  • Albion
  • Angola
  • Cumberland
  • Washington
  • Brown County

The communities then go through a 3 step process to develop a team comprised of many different community members invested in the future of their city or town, decide upon a focus for their team whether that is leadership, economy, or placemaking, and then develop a project based around that theme. This whole process allows the community to work towards goals of getting more community members involved in taking responsibility for the future of the city or town and allows them a tangible way to do this.

More information can be found on the Office of Community and Rural Affairs website or on this flyer.

Main Image Source: Hometown Collaboration Initiative

Placemaking from High School Students’ Perspectives

City Planning, Community Spotlight, News and Upcoming Events

This past Wednesday, April 19th, 2017, high school students from five different communities around Indiana (Crawfordsville, Fort Wayne, Greenfield, Greensburg, and Shelbyville) were able to come together in Indianapolis at the Platform and present youth-driven plans for their communities. These youth groups were all a part of the My Community, My Vision program under the office of the Lieutenant Governor and in collaboration with the Ball State University Urban Planning Department and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

These plans were the culmination of a roughly seven-month long planning process these high school students embarked upon with the assistance of a Ball State urban planning graduate or upper level undergraduate student and local government officials as well as advisors at the students’ high schools. The process included introducing the high school students to what urban planning is, how it is used, and what the outcomes of the process are. The students then studied their hometowns (listed above) and all performed a SWOT-A analysis which inventories the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of a community and the students’ Aspirations for their hometown. This helped them see clearly what they like about their community and what they wish would change and then lead them into thinking about how to change those things.

Many of the groups also surveyed other students in their high schools to see what those students thought about their community and if they were planning on returning after they graduate high school or college. Using this information and guidance from their Ball State mentors, local government officials, and community organizations, the groups were able to come up with initiatives they would want to see implemented in their hometowns. These would ideally attract them and other students like them back to these smaller Indiana communities after they get their education to work, start businesses, and begin their careers and/or families.

A common thread running through all 5 plans from these similar yet distinct communities was placemaking. Each plan stressed the importance of making these communities a place and having specific places within each community which will help attract these students back in a few years.

Some of the examples of these placemaking initiatives from each community include:

Crawfordsville

  • Gateway signage welcoming people to the city
  • Businesses open later than 5 pm in the downtown
  • A downtown park which is a place for pop-up activities throughout the year

Fort Wayne

  • A pedestrian bridge connecting two parks on the south side of the city
  • An open air market
  • Redevelopment of the old GE Campus including mixed-use with retail, park space, and entertainment attractions

Greenfield (plan focused on art)

  • A coffee shop in downtown Greenfield
  • Murals on downtown buildings created by high school students
  • Public space used as places for artists to temporarily work
  •  Student art studios or lab spaces scattered throughout the community

Greensburg (plan focused on agriculture)

  • A learning center at the high school for students interested in agriculture
  • Downtown buildings used to showcase agricultural heritage
  • Sidewalks and an art bicycle trail between the downtown and the fair grounds

Shelbyville

  • Public art to catalyze placemaking in the downtown
  • Food vendors and pop-up programs
  • A student run business
  • A community garden

All of these initiatives were decided upon by high school students who did not have backgrounds in planning or placemaking but what they ended up with was exactly that—initiatives which are unique enough that, once implemented, they would encourage them and their peers to come back to their hometown after they graduate. This program and its outcomes can help inform these communities’ future plans and how they go about involving the youth in the planning process from here on out as well as influencing what happens at a city and state level.

This is the third year for the My Community, My Vision program and we are looking forward to the fourth year and what it will hold. The plans are not up on the My Community, My Vision page on the IHCDA website yet but will be shortly, so keep your eyes out for those additions!

For any other questions, please send an email to McMv@ihcda.in.gov

Main Photo Source: My Community, My Vision

Repurposing Urban Alleys

City Planning, Community Spotlight, Funding Opportunities, Tactical Urbanism

When you think of the word “alley” what comes to mind? A small street between 2 buildings? A place where the delivery trucks and trash cans go? A somewhat sketchy area that’s not safe at night? Graffiti? Places which have been traditionally seen as useful spaces, especially in historic Europe, are now often seen as unappealing places of crime. These negative ideas are often associated with urban alleys but through placemaking and artistic efforts, alleys can become public gathering places, bright spots to stop and chat or drink coffee, or artistic expressions of the community.

In downtown Tipton, Indiana, there is a project currently going on to repurpose the public alley between Subway and Luttrell Insurance on South Main Street.

current alley

This is what the current alley space looks like on South Main Street in Tipton, Indiana. There are dozens of these alleys waiting to be repurposed in every Indiana town. Source: Google Maps

proposed alley

With some strings of light, moveable tables and chairs, and artistic additions such as a mural and archway, this space can easily become a destination for community members and visitors. Source.

 

“Dubbed “The Alley,” the project is part of a larger vision to beautify and repurpose public spaces in a way that supports downtown, said Tipton County Economic Development Organization Executive Director Nathan Kring.”

 

These projects are happening around the state and are endorsed by local governments, organizations, and the state. This particular project is through the Tipton County Economic Development Organization and the Tipton Main Street Association. The vision is for the alley to “include seating and a mural, and hopefully be used for public recreation and a venue for Main Street Association events” Source. Events which are put on in Tipton throughout the year will go towards funding the project as well as a matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

Alleys like this ones and others around the state and country can become catalysts for renewed interest in the downtown—transforming old spaces into something new in very simple ways like adding strings of light, a mural, moveable tables and chairs, benches, and bike racks, can all encourage people to stop and spend time in the downtown.

Another reason to invest time and money into repurposing alleys is because they are an efficient use of urban space. Michael Scott of Urban Engagement Webcity wrote Urban Salvage: Repurposing Alleys as Public Spaces and states “these thoroughfares are now viewed as potential nodes of economic activity. Their scale—often too narrow for substantive vehicular traffic—makes them the quintessential walkable thoroughfares. Also in the plus column is their value relative to bike storage, recycling and other functional possibilities” (Scott).

A specific example called The Alley Project in Detroit, Michigan is featured on Project for Public Spaces’ website and deals with youth and beautify social spaces. A youth artist collective, Young Nation, and The Detroit Collaborative Design Center “transformed two vacant lots and a detached garage in their neighborhood into a vibrant public place. Today, the garage doors are canvases for art work, the abandoned lots serve as gathering spaces for kids to play after school, and the garage itself is a clubhouse/studio space for youth”. Source.

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The Alley Project includes the artistic community of all ages by encouraging them to decorate their city alleys like this one. Source.

 

“Despite having limited resources and minimal investment, the Alley Project succeeded in building community engagement, strengthening a sense of ownership pride in the area, and bringing life to a previously overlooked space” Source.

 

If you’re looking for a fun project which involves community participation, artistic flare, and high returns for your community, consider repurposing an alley into public space!

Main Image Source: The Daily Texan

 

We Love Auburn Month

City Planning, Community Spotlight, News and Upcoming Events, Tactical Urbanism

Small Indiana cities and towns usually have a good amount of town pride and Auburn, IN is no exception. Auburn is a city of 13,000 people located about a half an hour north of Fort Wayne, IN. They are known for their Auburn Cord Dusenberg Festival every year on Labor Day Weekend. What many people may not know about is the “We Love Auburn Month” every February to promote downtown businesses. Using placemaking techniques, local businesses and artists, and a unique set of activities, they are able to bring more residents and visitors downtown during the month with the lowest sales, historically. The events are put on every weekend in February primarily by ADAC, the Auburn Development Advisory Committee, and also supports their future events for Auburn.

Some of their activities this past February included:

  • Yarn Bombing Installation (January 28th)

This brightens up the whole downtown especially during the somewhat dreary month of February and calls for local artists to decorate (with yarn) trees, trash receptacles, light poles, and other public utilities. There are some very creative end products including musical instruments, animals, and abstract pieces.

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One example of what the creative people of Auburn came up with for Yarn Bomb 2017! Photo Credit: Amber Bassett

  • Upstairs Downtown (February 4th)

A handful of storefronts in the downtown opened up their upstairs (and some basements) to show people what the other parts of downtown buildings offer. Some of the buildings included a Masonic Temple, and a building which was originally a doctor’s office, then residential, and is now an insurance company. One of the traditional downtown commercial buildings uses the upstairs as more office and screen printing shop.

Additionally, at each building, a history of all the buildings was available with all their old uses and photos of each, compiled by the Willennar Genealogy Center.

  • Ice Sculptures (February 11th)

Local sculptors from around central Indiana were commissioned to create ice sculptures to sell to local businesses and community establishments around Auburn. For every 5 sculptures which were purchased at $500, the sculptors made a free ice sculpture. These went to places such as: Auburn Essential Services, local banks, the Chamber of Commerce, Visitor’s Bureau, and other local shops. Some sculptures were carved on site, making it an even more interactive process.

  • Dine Downtown (February 18th)

A local restaurant (Mad Anthony’s) gave 15% of their proceeds from the night to ADAC as a fundraiser. This turned out to be a very successful event!

  • Take It Off Party (February 25th)

This event was to take down the yarn bombing which was put up at the beginning of the month. They created it into an event with a local band, food, and a paddle auction!

All these events are fun ways to encourage people to appreciate the city they live in and show them that their city can be fun as well as functional. Using placemaking and creative local individuals, they are able to create an even more exciting and liveable city.

Information courtesy of Amber Bassett, Zoning Administrator for the City of Auburn.

Main Image Source.

Learn more about the work ADAC does in Auburn and Auburn in general here.

Gauging Impacts of Placemaking Projects

City Planning, Community Spotlight, Placemaking Resources, Tactical Urbanism

Placemaking can be difficult to explain to those who do not have experience with it because it is often not a concrete place, building, or event, at least at first. The whole concept of making a “place” can be extremely visionary and one of the biggest challenges those of us encouraging placemaking have is getting others to envision it as well to get them involved. Selling the idea of a beach in the middle of Detroit (as in the picture above), would undoubtedly have had its challenges, but ended up being an extremely profitable catalyst to the momentum in downtown Detroit.

One of the best ways to get people involved is to be able to quantify previous placemaking projects and show the positive results of who they have benefitted and how. But this again presents all sorts of new problems. The Cultural Trail in Indianapolis has quantifiably raised property values significantly around the trail and throughout the communities it runs through but there are also unquantifiable effects it has had on both Indianapolis residents and visitors.

In the 2015-2016 school year, the IUPUI School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), in conjunction with the Indiana Tourism Association, embarked upon a practicum course where they were able to quantify placemaking efforts around Indiana through both quantitative and qualitative data. In their inaugural year (fall 2015), they focused on 3 placemaking projects around Indiana and tailored a procedure to determine how impactful they were in their communities. These projects were:

  1. Franklin Street: Evansville
  2. The Lerner Theatre: Elkhart
  3. Indiana Dunes Nature Center: Porter County

All 3 of these are placemaking projects although they range in diversity from an entire street, to a building, to an outdoor recreation destination. One reason placemaking projects in general can be difficult to quantify is that there are different variables in each one—some are short term, some are long term, some are county wide, some are for a neighborhood, there are mixed use developments, cultural districts, trails, outdoor recreation, community gardens, art pieces, water features, and many, many other placemaking project options.

Figuring out a concrete, cut-and-dry process for determining impacts for all these would be almost impossible—but there are generalizations and observations which can be made about each of them which can then inform and improve future placemaking projects.

The SPEA students were able to make some generalizations about these different placemaking efforts and evaluate the projects’ impacts in their community with varying results. Some examples of these results can be found on their website.

Not only does this information help each of these individual communities, it can be helpful statewide as well: to gauge the impact that different kinds of placemaking projects have on different kinds of communities. Often communities move forward with a placemaking project with a final result in mind, but may not know if that project will get them to that final result. Determining a metric for how these placemaking projects actually impact different areas of the community would help those developing these projects to better understand some of the ways they may impact their surrounding neighborhood and city.

The class continued again the next year and they are looking to create a “guidebook” which will be available to communities around Indiana who want to find out more about placemaking projects and what some of their tangible, quantifiable impacts are.

 

Do you want to be in love?

City Planning, Placemaking Globally, Tactical Urbanism, What We're Watching

“Emotions are contagious; when more people say they love their cities, more people will feel it and believe it”- Peter Kageyama

 

Most people in their careers operate within the measurable world. We measure participation at events, the amount of money something costs, how many jobs something creates, and a wide variety of other things to determine the success of projects, programs, or initiatives. These things are all great—the more participation we can get at public events, the more bang we can get for our buck or an increase in employment—are all valid and extremely important benchmarks to strive for. But we all know this is not enough.

The statistics about a place are not what makes the city, what truly makes the city, and we probably all know this from first-hand experience. We have all heard negative things said about our city and thought “that doesn’t really represent where I am from”. What is not said enough are the positive things about our cities, the things that the residents know firsthand from living there and what makes it home to them. The difficult part for people in design and community engagement professions is getting residents to share the immeasurable things about their community: how it makes them feel, what makes it their home instead of just another city, and learning how to interpret and market these intangibles to both the residents and other communities, if they can even be marketed. Moving feelings and ideas into tangible expressions of affection for a city is something that can take a considerable amount of thought, effort, community participation, and determination.

Peter Kageyama, an expert in community development and grassroots engagement and the author of several books including For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places and Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places, offered his thoughts on the subject at a ULI lecture series in October of 2016.

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Peter Kageyama has authored two books about loving your city and is an internationally acclaimed consultant on community development. Source.

His main idea is how to get people to fall in love with their cities, and how this then translates into reinvestment and urban revitalization. The concept is very simple: everyone loves on different levels and, at some level, probably loves the place they live in for one reason or another. Expressing this to the rest of the community in a tangible way and in a way that the city as a whole can get on board with is another story altogether. Kageyama discusses it in terms of potholes: every city has potholes: most residents can identify those potholes and want them fixed. It is much more difficult for residents to ask the city for intangibles such as beauty, art, and great design in a city, but we know that is a desire most residents want fulfilled, probably more desperately than they want the potholes filled. How do we, as designers, neighborhood advocates, and citizens, help people to love their city more and to make it a more fun place for people to be in?

 

We want to create “cities that grab us by the heart and refuse to let us go”- Peter Kageyama

 

Kageyama, in his short twenty minute presentation, cites example after example of things which cities have done, big and small, to give their residents “love notes”. These love notes are often, though not always, small, but they always have a larger-than-anticipated impact on the people who get to experience them. From Cloud Gate and Crown Fountain in Chicago, to the Big Blue Bear in Denver, to Rainworks in Seattle, to bronze mice hidden around downtown Greenville, South Carolina, many cities are catching onto ways to love their city and pass on love notes to their residents and visitors.

Kageyama encourages those in both top-down positions like the local government and bottom-up positions like grassroots organizations to look for out-of-the-box solutions which can give their city a little love. People working from the bottom-up are especially important because they are the ones of the ground floor of the community. They often see issues and have simple yet creative ways of solving them that city officials and heads of large organizations do not. But these same people are the ones who usually think “city-making is beyond them”; since they are not in a profession which deals with city development their opinions are not valid. Kageyama is quick to include and encourage these people to get involved—often the most spectacular placemaking efforts come from people who are not in the profession.

image-5_reduced

Community members from diverse backgrounds are absolutely essential in the process of “city-making” as they are ones who will be using the city which we make! Source. 

He also encourages the people who want to make these kinds of changes in their community to look for “garden hose solutions” or solutions which do the job without being over the top or costing an excessive amount of money. While there may be objections to spending money on things which have a cost but do not have a measurable value when there are still potholes to be fixed, Kageyama says:

 

“Technically, you could always fix more potholes, but the placemaking effects have values beyond the purely financial”- Peter Kageyama

 

If we wait until everything in our cities is 100% functional and safe before moving on to the fun and creative investments in cities, the fun things will never get done. There will always be potholes, but there will also always be people who want to fall more in love with their city. Fixing potholes has a known and finite benefit; focusing on the things which get people to fall more in love with their community are the ones which will have exponential and generational benefits. A balance of the two will be essential to the emotional health of the people in the city and, subsequently, the health of the city.

The whole idea of Placemaking Indiana is to “love where you live” and to continually fall in love with the place you live. To do this, it must be a collaborative and ongoing process which engages the whole community and is continually looking for and pursuing new ways to express our love for our city and state. Check out the efforts we have been making in this direction, including My Community, My Vision, Stellar Communities, and CreatINg Places here. Wherever you live, don’t forget to love your city today!

Check out this link for Kageyama’s talk with ULI!

Main Image Source: The Making Table

Big Blue Bear: Denver Post

Mice on Main: Greenville Daily Photo

Revitalization of a True American City: Gary, Indiana

City Planning, Community Spotlight, Funding Opportunities, News and Upcoming Events, Uncategorized

Many downtowns in Indiana have become run-down, underutilized, and in distress in the past 70 years. Perhaps one of the most well-known in this category is Gary, Indiana. Located on the northwest corner of Indiana along Lake Michigan and 30 miles from Chicago, Gary is often associated with a run-down downtown, a declining population and loss of jobs in the area. The flip side of this though, and one which the current leaders in Gary are attempting to capture, is the incredible amount of opportunity for rebirth and revitalization within the area.

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Gary is working towards capturing the history of their downtown and showcasing it for visitors as well. Source.

The Gary Preservation Tour is the newest addition to Patronicity’s CreatINg Places project list. Three different projects have been funded in the last two months with a collaboration from crowdfunding and matching grants from IHCDA, including the Pre-Enactment Theater! This Preservation Tour will take place during the summer of 2017 over the course of three days and includes two days of walking tours which will lead visitors through the history of Gary present in the downtown. The Associate City Planner of Gary, Alex Koerner, has sited different buildings which will be on the tour including “City Hall, Union Station, the Gary Land Co. building in Gateway Park, and the Hotel Gary (now called Genesis Towers)” (Source). The last day will be an open house where everyone is invited to come to Gary and explore the city at their leisure using volunteers and new wayfinding signage to guide themselves around downtown.

The money raised by crowdfunders through Patronicity and matched by IHCDA will help pay for securing key historic buildings in the downtown, improving the aesthetic of Broadway Street with banners, and paying for costs during the event in the summer.

gary-pic-1_compressed

One of Gary’s goals is to preserve historic buildings in order to later restore them including this 100 year old Methodist Church. Source. 

Gary has an even more comprehensive goal than getting people downtown for a couple days during the summer to admire some of their historic buildings—they are coupling the walking tours with events going on in Gary to get people to stick around and check out what Gary has to offer including baseball games, restaurants, and arts festivals. Connecting people to the place they are living is an extremely important part of this endeavor as is the walking part of the walking tour.

In the summer of 2016, a study came out done by the Arup group out of London called Cities Alive, Toward a Walking World which shows in detail how designing cities for pedestrians over cars has immense benefits in every area of a city’s health and the health of its citizens. It also includes an incredible amount of case studies backing this up. Some of the reasons they outlined can be used to substantiate Gary’s process and goals and show how increasing Gary’s walkability factor can increase their attraction as a stable Indiana community.

“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and place, you get people and places” – Fred Kent, Project for Public Spaces

More walkable streets improve a city by:

  • Bringing back “eyes on the street”
    • A cheap way to make people feel safe on the streets.
  • Making neighborhoods more vibrant
    • Walking around a place which was built for people will bring people back multiple times and encourage them to spend more time in these areas.
  • Enhancing “sense of place”
    • Increases people’s sense of civic responsibility to take care of a distinct place.
  • Fostering social interaction
    • New people will get to meet each other!
  • Improving a city’s brand and identity
    • Making a city more walkable makes it more livable and making a city more livable makes more people want to visit.
  • Increasing tourism
    • See above.
  • Activating the street façade
    • Walkable cities will also have less vacant storefronts and more foot traffic in those stores.
  • Inspiring civic responsibility
    • It is much harder to pass up issues which you see while walking around than while driving— a walkable city encourage individuals to come together and advocate for each other.
  • Helping make cities more resilient
    • Crises which affect cities that are dependent on the automobile or other forms of transit will have less of an effect on cities that are more walkable.
  • Being a tool for urban regeneration
    • People walking around a neighborhood or the downtown connect with other individuals in the area, and then become more invested in that area and motivated to act. That’s when change happens within cities and communities.

To see more of these examples, visit this article!

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Walkability is not only good for revitalizing communities, it increases individual’s physical health, economic wealth, and overall environmental health. Source. 

This is just a small portion of what effects encouraging and showcasing walkability in a community like Gary can have on the immediate and surrounding areas. Showing the public that Gary is investing in its core downtown, revitalizing distinct and beautiful core buildings, and building the place up for people, will give people renewed hope for Gary’s future and drive to be part of the exciting change currently happening there.

The best thing you can do for Gary is to go home and say four nice things about it.” – Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

I would add that another good thing you can do for Gary is to go walk around it.

To learn more about Gary’s Preservation Tour or to donate to their cause, visit their page on Patronicity‘s website, or go to their Facebook page!

Main Photo Source: Gary Preservation Tour

THE HIGH LINE AND ITS UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

City Planning, Interesting Read, Placemaking Globally, What We're Reading

Planning for All Aspects of a Project

We have all heard about it: the cool, hip, green, tourist attraction in New York City: the High Line. The 1.45 mile long linear park transformed from a rail line attracts 300,000 visitors per year, more visitors than any other location in NYC. This attractive park has over 400 free public programs and more than 30 public art projects per year. The amenities of the High Line are incredible and diverse featuring views of the Hudson River, skyscrapers, parts of the rail line, artwork, access to food carts and more than 350 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, vines, and trees. In addition to all this, the High Line will also generate around $1 billion in tax revenues for the city over 20 years.

By all accounts this seems like a home run, slam dunk, touchdown for a park which runs through many parts of the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, and in these ways it is. But there are some unintended consequences which have the designers and surrounding residents rethinking the High Line and how it could have been made better for those already living in the neighborhood.

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Many people enjoy the High Line during all times of the year. Source.

 

“During the High Line’s planning stages, Hammond and David set up offices inside a local community agency in order to make themselves accessible to public housing tenants, and solicit their opinions on design. But the questions they asked at their “input meetings” were essentially binary: Blue paint, or green paint? Stairs on the left or the right? They rarely got to the heart of what really mattered.” City Lab

 

The High Line was intended to be a park for the neighborhood—no one could have anticipated the enormous draw it was going to have for tourists. But in being such a well-designed, innovative, accessible and interesting space to explore, an excellent placemaking endeavor in general, it has created concerns for the residents, especially those in public housing projects, two of which are at either end of the High Line. Additionally “1/3 of the residents of the Chelsea neighborhood are people of color” (City Lab). But these demographics are not representative of the visitors to the High Line—they are more often white and more often tourists. By this account, the High Line seems to not completely have achieved its original purpose.“But that’s just it: in hindsight, it might be obvious, but few could have anticipated the High Line’s downright gravitational pull on tourists and developers.” City Lab

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The High Line provides a green respite and place for activities for many visitors to the city. Source.

So how can designers prepare for this? Is it possible to plan for every aspect of a project and what might happen in multiple different scenarios?

 

“Instead of asking what the design should look like, I wish we’d asked, ‘What can we do for you?’” says Hammond. “Because people have bigger problems than design.” City Lab

 

So what is the High Line doing now to correct these oversights? The Friends of the High Line is the non-profit organization which is continually working to improve the High Line in a variety of ways and to raise money to pay for these improvements and programming. They have launched several initiatives including job-training programs for teens, education for kids, and working specifically with the public housing projects to develop programming specifically for their residents—one in particular called ¡ARRIBA!, summer Latin dance parties, are very popular. They do realize there are some things which could have been done at the beginning which are impossible to go back and correct, especially advocating for public housing.

 

“If you care about the places you’re working in, then you have to be talking about this,” he says. “Because in a growing economy, if you’re building a greenway trail or a transit station or improving a school, it will drive up land values.” City Lab

 

Other similar projects in Washington D.C., L.A. and Atlanta, are learning from these unintended consequences in NYC’s project, but will almost certainly have unintended consequences in their own projects.

In the end, that might be the best anyone can do—set out with a good idea, consult the public, build the project. But to not leave it there—don’t walk away and think it’s done. Continue to assess the project, evaluate what worked and what didn’t, and change what needs to be changed. The world is evolving, humans are evolving, jobs and housing preferences are evolving, shouldn’t the public amenities which go along with them?

Read the full story on the High Line and public housing here.

Main Photo Source: A Walk Around Some of Manhattan’s Different Neighborhoods 

 

 

What We’re Reading: What is a Walk Score?

City Planning, Placemaking Globally, What We're Reading

It’s not too difficult to identify neighborhood that are more “walkable” than others. Residential areas that are more dense, with more amenities are obviously more conducive to pedestrian travel than are widely disbursed neighborhoods with stores, schools, and other necessaries only accessible by car.

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Researcher who are measuring a neighborhood’s walkability or “Walk Score” have found that not only do areas that are more accessible to pedestrian have higher health benefits to its residents, but that a higher Walk Score means a higher degree of public safety and property value.

To learn more, visit the Reliance Foundary’s “What is a Walk Score?” here!