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

Visualizing a Just, Equitable, and Vibrant Neighborhood for the Monon 16

Community Spotlight, Funding Opportunities, News and Upcoming Events, Placemaking Resources

Pre-Enactment Theater in Indianapolis

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Bird’s eye view looking east on E 16th St. at the Oaks Academy Middle School.

The Harrison Center for the Arts opened in 2000 at 16th and Delaware in the Old Northside neighborhood. This neighborhood, like many others in Indianapolis, had taken a hit since its prime around the turn of the century, when President Benjamin Harrison lived in and was involved with the neighborhood. Since 2000, the Harrison Center has expanded their sphere of influence and had a positive impact on the neighborhood, by hosting gallery shows, outdoor concerts, offering studio spaces, and creating Herron High School in 2004. Now, with the help of Patronicity, the general public, and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA), they are embarking on a completely new initiative—community engagement and planning for the future through visioning strategies and a strategy dubbed “pre-enactment”: bringing a community’s hope for their future to life.

“Pre-Enactment envisions a just, equitable and vibrant neighborhood where everyone is included in economic prosperity.  Rather than dwelling on the past through “re-enactment”, we will “pre-enact” a new, vibrant commercial corridor that serves as hope for the future. The 12-month-long series of community visioning sessions and creative placemaking activities along 16th Street will culminate in a huge, day-long public event on October 7, 2017” (The Harrison Center for the Arts).

The Harrison Center is dissatisfied with the disinvestment, high vacancy rates of both homes and commercial buildings, high unemployment rate, poverty issues and poor levels of education which are present in their neighborhood. They are motivated to change these aspects of their community and show the rest of the neighborhood what the area has the potential to become using “temporary and permanent improvements to the physical structures to depict a healthy neighborhood”.

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Harrison Center for the Arts theater students will set up pop-up storefronts and activities to show neighbors the potential of the neighborhood. Source: Vimeo video

 

By including people from the Harrison Center for the Arts who are already invested in the neighborhood in the visioning efforts of the community, they will build a base of people to follow through with the efforts to permanently revitalize the neighborhood and directly involve neighbors who might not be inclined to get involved otherwise. This Indianapolis-based model of creative placemaking and neighborhood revitalization will be the first of its kind and could have far-reaching impacts around the country, showcasing a new, innovative way to enact change at the neighborhood level. Bringing together theater, the arts, pop-up establishments and community engagement with neighborhood and economic revitalization is a unique approach to issues which plague almost every city in the U.S.

This project is also unique because it is being funded through crowdgranting. The Detroit-based site, Patronicity, is currently hosting three other Indiana projects (in Greensburg, South Bend and Wabash) which are being funded in the same way as well as projects in Michigan and Massachusetts. The Pre-Enactment Theater in Indianapolis has a goal of $50,000 which will then be matched dollar for dollar by IHCDA. Their deadline is in 8 days, on February 15th, and they have just over $13,000 to go! If you feel intrigued and excited about this project or organization, make sure you go to the Pre-Enactment Theater’s page on Patronicity’s website and donate to their cause! Don’t forget to keep up with the Harrison Center for the Arts as they continue their efforts in the Old Northside neighborhood!

Read more about the project and watch a video explaining the process here.

Main photo source: Pre-Enactment Theater is coming to Monon 16! 

Indianapolis Duo Awarded $200k Placemaking Grant From ArtPlace America

Community Spotlight, News and Upcoming Events
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Phyllis Viola Boyd and LaShawnda Crowe Storm of Indianapolis’ The House Poem Project. (photos by artists)

This past week, “RECLAIM,” a project that focuses on tackling unsafe neighborhood conditions on Indianapolis’ northwest side, was the recipient of a $200k grant from ArtPlace America’s 2016 National Creative Placemaking Fund.

Purdue to Create Technical High School in Long-Vacant Indianapolis Industrial Building

City Planning, Community Spotlight, News and Upcoming Events

ct2xi_vw8aiz70mToday, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee, and Purdue University President Mitch Daniels took turns standing at a podium a few yards from East Washington Street. Behind them, a Purdue University backdrop partially obscured the boarded up front entrance to the long-vacant PR Mallory building.

What we’re watching: Small Business Revolution: Wabash

Community Spotlight, Placemaking Globally, What We're Watching

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At the beginning of this year, Deluxe Corporation, a leader in check production, financial services, and small business solutions, announced a nationwide call to nominate small towns to receive $500,000 to revitalize their Main Street. By May 3, Deluxe and celebrity entrepreneur Robert Herjavec had selected two communities out of nearly 10,000 nominations as finalists – Silverton, Oregon and our own Wabash, Indiana.

PARK(ing) Day – Friday, Sept. 16, 2016

City Planning, Community Spotlight, News and Upcoming Events, Placemaking Globally, Uncategorized

“PARK(ing) Day is way for the community to create more public space for a day and really showcase how precious this shared open space in our downtown is.”

Amy Donahue, River City Co., Chattanooga, TN