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

Trail Usage and its Economic Impact

Community Spotlight, News and Upcoming Events, Tactical Urbanism

Many of us have probably used a trail at some point in our lives. It’s a pretty simple concept—getting from point A to point B using a safe and designated place to travel besides a road designed for automobiles. They vary in size, location, purpose, and what kinds of services they connect from community to community as well as in their rates of success. Measuring success can be tricky, though, and can include anything from increased property values, to the amount of people using the trail, to economic development, to increased tourism, etc.

Starting yesterday, there is a study being conducted throughout Indiana trails by the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands, to “gather data on health factors related to trail use and their economic impact” (Source). Trails are something which many communities are interested in as placemaking efforts and something residents can usually support because of the beautification impacts on a community and the accessibility of usage for them. Studying trails around Indiana, though, and correlating them directly to economic development and an increase in usage would help convince other communities and their residents that trails are worthwhile investments. Trails must be planned and created intentionally to leverage support and achieve the desired outcomes.

The trails which are going to be studied are the:

  • Nickel Plate Trail (Peru)
  • Rivergreenway (Fort Wayne)
  • Erie Lackawanna Trail (Northwest Indiana)
  • Pumpkinvine Nature Trail (Elkhart and LaGrange counties)
  • Monon Trail (Indianapolis and Carmel)
  • Cardinal Greenway (Marion to Muncie to Richmond)
  • Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage (Evansville)
  • People Trail (Columbus) and
  • B-Line Trail (Bloomington)

 

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The Nickel Plate Trail in Peru, IN, has a bridge over the Wabash River. Source: railstotrails.org

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The B-Line Trail includes this striking blue arch over part of the trail. Source: heraldtimesonline.com

 

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is one example which is brought up in many discussions about the economic impact of trails in cities. The number which was released in the summer of 2015 was that over the 8 miles of trails from 2008-2015, “property assessment within approximately one block of the eight mile trail have increased 148%…an increase of $1 billion in assessed property value” (Source). It is slightly different since it is in the heart of the state capital and a state of the art trail, but the number is astonishing and should peak other city’s interests as to what they can do with trails in their own communities.

Connecting points of interest is a very important aspect of community trails: ones which do not connect anchor sites such as restaurants, cultural areas, retail, universities, etc., even if they are exceptionally well-done, will not attract high amounts of users like trails which connect anchor sites such as restaurants, cultural areas, retail, universities, etc. Trails can also become places of culture and art themselves, increasing the number of people who want to be there like on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail where there are numerous works of art which encourage people to stop and spend time admiring them.

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The Glick Peace Walk along the Cultural Trail in Indianapolis encourages people to take their time and enjoy the trail. Source

The Institute is planning on taking data four times for a week at a time in April, June, August, and October this year. Using surveys from “trail users, a control group of non-trail users and nearby property owners” as well as trail counters, the Institute will be able to inform “future trail development, operations and maintenance efforts” (Source).

This study may be able to help communities all over Indiana and surrounding states put their trails to better use and create places people want to be in as well as leveraging economic development dollars for the surrounding businesses in the area and the overall health of the community.

Main Photo Source: Seattle Department of Transportation

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.

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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

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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

 

Decay Devils and Gary Union Station

Community Spotlight, News and Upcoming Events, Placemaking Resources

Every city has little gems that make it interesting, unique, and creates attractions for visitors and residents alike. Some of these gems are easier to see than others are but, once they are discovered, they have the potential to become huge catalysts for renewed interest in the city or town. The Decay Devils group is an example of this in Gary, Indiana, and they are working with other groups and individuals to bring positive attention and revitalization to Gary’s downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

This past month they hosted an exhibit at the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts in the Miller neighborhood called “The Art Within: Rebuilding through Preservation”. Its main purpose was to investigate ways to salvage Gary’s abandoned buildings by looking at examples of abandoned buildings around the country and world and how they have handled similar situations. Using them as “public spaces or pieces of art” is an option to make them a contributing use to the neighborhood. The exhibit also included “memorabilia such as band uniforms, trophies and yearbooks from closed Gary high schools, such as Emerson and Horace Mann”.

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Gary community members were able to see examples of how abandoned buildings are dealt with in other communities around the country in an exhibit at the Marshall J. Gardner Center for the Arts. Source

 

Decay Devils “was formed by a love of Gary’s architecture. The collective started four years ago with photographers who kept bumping into each other at City Methodist and decided to go on a road trip to see what other places have done to preserve their landmarks. It’s since incorporated as a nonprofit and embarked on a number of projects” Source.

 

Their mission is to preserve historic landmarks in northwest Indiana and through that “bring a sense of pride and beauty back to these areas by preventing further decay”. Some of their projects they have already accomplished include:

  • St. Monica, St. Luke Oral History Time Capsule Project
  • Marquette Beach Clean-up with the Alliance for the Great Lakes
  • Transforming Lake County Grant through the Knight Foundation and a
  • Gary, IN Blight Day Participant

The work is not done yet though! Decay Devils along with other individuals are planning other revitalization efforts in Gary. One of these is supporting the summer historic preservation tours , made possible with crowdgranting funds through Patronicity along with a matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA). This will catalyze interest in Gary’s historic architecture downtown including Union Station, a New Deal-era Post Office, City Methodist, and other historically and architecturally significant buildings by allowing people to tour them and teaching them about them along the way through signage and tour guides.

Decay Devils also have interest in restoring the Gary Union Station, which was built in 1910 and closed in the 50s. They plan to “make the location’s exterior aesthetically pleasing while securing the interior of the location to ensure safe viewing for the public” Source. They were awarded a $22,000 grant from the Knight Foundation for this purpose and have planned a cleanup around the station on Saturday, April 8th from 9 am – 1 pm. Cleanup details include to “clean up the landscaping, securely board up the lower level of open windows, and attach murals to the front exterior. The group also plans to install LED or solar lighting to the top” Source. Additionally, “the Decay Devils are looking for ways to illuminate the buildings at night to make it more visible and remind people it’s tucked between the train tracks downtown” Source. If you are interested in being a part of the cleanup, visit their site to learn more! In conjunction with this event they are also having an Artist Call Out the next week, on Saturday, April 15th from 4:30-8:30 pm to design one of the windows for the revival of Union Station with the theme of Growth.

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The Gary Union Station has a unique history worth salvaging to the Decay Devils as well as the rest of the city. Source

The city is going after a larger grant from the Knight Foundation to restore the City Methodist Church “into a European-style ruins garden that photographers would pay a fee to shoot” Source. This would go a long way in restoring Gary’s architecture.

 

“I think we’re at a very critical point where if we don’t act in the next couple years, a lot of this architecture will be beyond repair,” said Sam Salvesen, an associate city planner and AmeriCorps Vista. “The Ambassador Apartments were just torn down. If we don’t pay attention, if money’s not invested, we’ll lose them forever. Gary doesn’t need another parking lot. We have a built environment that’s worth preserving.” Source.

 

To see other work that Decay Devils will be embarking on, visit their website!

Main Photo Source: Decay Devils look to give new life to Union Station

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.

 

Creatively Incorporating our Waterways

Community Spotlight, News and Upcoming Events, Placemaking Resources

“Creative Placemaking is generally understood as the use of arts and culture by diverse partners to strategically shape the physical and social character of a place in order to spur economic development, promote enduring social change, and improve the physical environment.” ROW.

 

Do waterways fit into this definition? Can water be creatively dealt with and shape a space or promote social change? Waterways are an incredibly important part of many Indiana cities and towns for recreational purposes, tourism, sources of water, aesthetics, wildlife habitat, fishing, economic development and a plethora of other reasons. They are also public spaces and provide places for people to gather. A lot of local organizations around the state are currently thinking about their waterways and how to re-energize, reconnect, reclaim, and reinvest in them for the betterment of the public and nature.

 

Reconnecting to our Waterways (ROW) is a “grassroots initiative designed to reclaim the benefits of Indianapolis’ waterways; to provide opportunities for physical, human, and economic development. It’s about helping neighbors strengthen waterways, and in turn, helping waterways strengthen neighborhoods” ROW.

 

Reconnecting to our Waterways been around since 2012 and focus on the main waterways in Indianapolis including:

Fall Creek

Pleasant Run

Central Canal

Little Eagle Creek

Pogue’s Run

White River

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ROW has identified different phases of improving the waterways around Indianapolis. Source. 

They have partnered with an incredible amount of state and local organizations: public, private, and non-profit, to help further goals of aesthetics, connectivity, economics, education, ecology, well-being, and more.

But, they also include creative placemaking in their initiatives to improve Indianapolis’ waterways! This group and its leaders encourage local artists and residents in different parts of the city to enhance the waterways which are so integral to the city and re-imagine them in order to get other residents and visitors to see them in a new, more positive light. Enhancing views of the waterways, removing invasive plant species, including art along trails and the waterways, gathering resident input, restoring bridges, planning for pop-up art and community events, and everything in between has been accomplished around these waterways, spurred on by ROW and pushed through by the residents who often become very excited and extremely passionate about reconnecting with their long lost public spaces.

This kind of work is possible in any community which is looking for a new way to engage residents, clean up waterways, reclaim public space, enhance the arts scene, improve economic development, and many more possibilities, some of which may be unique to your community! And while the improvement of each waterway in separate Indiana communities may seem like an isolated improvement, they have a multiplying effect, as they will subsequently improve the waterways in other, connected communities!

ROW has put on creative placemaking workshops, some of which are available on their website, here  as well as a document which explains creative placemaking more in depth.

If you are interested in waterways, the health of Indianapolis, engaging with your neighborhood, or creative placemaking, they also have monthly meetings focused around each of their waterways as well as public events at different library branches called Art + Science Brainstorms. Find a way to get involved and make a difference for Indianapolis or through your own communities and waterways around Indiana!

Main Image Source: Indiana Public Media 

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.

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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