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

Activating Alleys for a Lively City

Interesting Read, Placemaking Resources, Tactical Urbanism, What We're Reading

“…Alleys possess compelling potential to produce a vibrant secondary public realm that might also help to repair the ecological performance of our cities” Nancy Rottle RLA, ASLA, Green Futures Lab, University of Washington

 

Last week, we highlighted Tipton, Indiana which is currently working on an alley project as a placemaking tool in their downtown to make it more inviting. Alleys have historically been places for people and have recently gotten away from that to become a place more for automobiles and trash bins. In this document, entitled Activating Alleys for a Lively City by Mary Fialko and Jennifer Hampton, alleys are treated as potential dynamic spaces in a city or town of any size and the authors describe how this change can occur.

The case study is located in Seattle, Washington and the authors describe alleys from many different neighborhoods in the city. They also categorize alleys into the following:

  • High Density Mixed Use
  • Low Density Mixed Use
  • Nightlife District
  • Commercial District
  • Multi Family Residential
  • Single Family Residential

These are diagrammed and then specific ways are discussed as to how these types of alleys can be activated and made fore people again. Some of the goals the authors focus on for what alleys should be are: quality of public space, ecological health of the city, and a safer environment for people. These then can be accomplished through design strategies.

alley map

The authors determined there is a potential of increasing the public space in Seattle by 50% solely by converting alleys into usable public space. Source

Along with attractive drawings, diagrams and charts, the appendix includes a full inventory of 200 alleys in Seattle neighborhoods which is interesting to peruse through!

This resource would be great for any community looking to increase their public space in ways other than pocket parks and an excellent placemaking tool!

Get yours here!

Main Photo Source: Pinterest

 

Transportation and Creative Placemaking

Interesting Read, Placemaking Globally, Placemaking Resources, Tactical Urbanism, What We're Reading

In many circumstances, transportation and placemaking can seem like opposites. Transportation is about cars, buses, and trucks, and getting these from one place to another as quickly as possible. Placemaking is about people first, getting cars, buses, and trucks to slow down and consider the place they are in. How do we get these two fields to work together for a product that is best for the general public?

In this comprehensive website by Transportation for America: The Scenic Route, Getting Started with Creative Placemaking and Transportation, they address this situation and provide a plethora of tools including case studies from all around the country, answers to general questions about placemaking from a transportation perspective, and their “eight approaches” to creative placemaking for transportation which include

  • Identify the Community’s Assets and Strengths
  • Integrate the Arts Into Design, Construction and Engineering
  • Marketing to Cultivate Ownership and Pride
  • Leveraging Cultural Districts and Corridors
  • Mobilize the Community to Achieve Your Shared Goals
  • Develop Local Leadership & Capacity
  • Organize Events and Activities
  • Incorporate Arts in Public and Advisory Meetings

This site is specifically “to introduce creative placemaking to transportation planners, public works agencies and local elected officials who are on the front lines of advancing transportation projects” Source.

 

“Done right, creative placemaking can lead to both a better process and a better product, in this case integrating community-inspired art into the ultimate design of the project as so many of the case studies in this guide demonstrate. The end results are streets, sidewalks and public spaces that welcome us, inspire us and move us in every sense of that word.” – James Corless, Director, Transportation for America

 

They also stress how this guide does not have to be read linearly. Each point and case study can be looked over independently of the others and still understood without necessarily going through all the other points in order. If you’re looking for ways to integrate transportation and placemaking, this would be a good start! Another plus is that the picture on the main page is of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail!

Visit the site here and find out how your community can better incorporate transportation and placemaking!

Main Photo Source: The Scenic Route 

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

Types of Placemaking

Interesting Read, Placemaking Globally, Placemaking Resources, What to Read, What We're Reading

Did you know there is more than one type of placemaking?!

Depending on what you are trying to accomplish and how you are trying to accomplish it, there are different types of placemaking to use.

According to Mark A. Wyckoff, FAICP, a professor from MSU, there are 4 types including:

  • Standard Placemaking
  • Strategic Placemaking
  • Creative Placemaking and
  • Tactical Placemaking

Not only does this document describe each type of placemaking, it also gives lots of helpful diagrams, examples, descriptions, comparison charts, flow charts, and resources for those really interested in the right type of placemaking for themselves and their community!

Use this link to get this document and start making places in your community!

Main Image Source: Four Types of Placemaking

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

map_reduced

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 

Making Strides Towards Walkability

Interesting Read, Placemaking Globally, Placemaking Resources, Tactical Urbanism, What We're Reading

Did you know:

  • 33% of Americans are unable to drive a car?
  • Shifting from a long commute to a short walk would make a single person as happy as if he or she had found a new love?
  • Each point increase in walk score (a walkability index) typically increases US house prices by $700-$3,000?
  • The Indianapolis Cultural Trail diverts over 68 million gallons of runoff per year?
  • Every 10 minutes of community cuts community involvement by 10%?

Last week, I wrote about a project going on in Gary, Indiana which encourages people to get out and walk around their downtown in order to reinvest in it. This week I’m highlighting a really neat resource which is along the same lines: a comprehensive document about walkability in cities and the plethora of positive effects moving “towards a walking world” can have individually, locally, and globally.

 

“Walkability is a word that did not exist just 20 years ago. We made walking so unnatural that we had to invent a word to describe what we were missing” – Dan Burden, Director of Innovation and Inspiration at Blue Zones

 

Cities Alive: Towards a walking world is an extensive report put together by different parts of the ARUP team in London, with help from other specialists around the world, which details the benefits of walkable cities. Published in 2016, it categorizes the specific benefits of walkability, one of which is placemaking, into social, economic, environmental, and political benefits. In this easy-to-read, detailed, and beautifully assembled report, the reader can pretty much find any benefit of walkability, numbers for it, and the reasoning behind it. This report is the real deal.

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The 16 general areas of benefits from walkable cities, according to this report, each have their own icon and are presented in groups of four: social, economic, environmental, and political. Source. 

As if that were not enough, the report also presents interviews done with professionals around the world on this topic and offers practical solutions, 40 of them to be exact, to increase walkability in your city! Finally, there are 80 case studies from around the world categorized into topics of:

  • Vision and Strategy
  • Safe and Efficient Transportation System
  • Liveable Environment
  • Sense of Place and Communities and
  • Smart and Responsive City
image-3

This map of the case study sites show the diverse range of topics the case studies cover and, although many of them are in western Europe as that is where the ARUP group is located, there are some on every populated continent. Source. 

 

“Essentially walkability is allowing people to do what the human body was designed to do in the first place: to go places without having to get into some mechanical instrument” – Dan Burden, Walkability Expert, the Doable City Forum

 

If you are interested in the effects and statistics related to walkability and public places in cities or if you need a resource for a project or presentation, this document is for you! Get your copy here!

Main Photo Source: Cities Alive

PLACEMAKING RESOURCES: BACK TO BASICS

Interesting Read, Placemaking Resources, What We're Reading

Creative Placemaking: All You Have Ever Wanted to Know

creative-placemaking_pic3

 

“Today’s placemaking efforts celebrate and stabilize distinctiveness with modest-scale investments, a dramatic change in American economic development…In the new century, sponsors look beyond physical alterations, paying more attention to the animation of places with economic and cultural activity” (Gadwa and Markusen, p. 5).

 

Most of you are probably aware of creative placemaking, how it has started in your community, and what you can do to make it grow. But in case you’re not or you just want a good placemaking resource, this document has everything you ever wanted to know about creative placemaking and a number of case studies to gain inspiration from! Prepared by Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa, this resource will inspire you to start/increase creative placemaking activities in your area!

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Creative placemaking is becoming a more accepted–and fun!– way to spark interest in a community, invest in it, and increase economic development. Source.

Want to know how the arts and culture benefit from creative placemaking? It’s in here.

Curious about the outcomes of creative placemaking? Consult this resource.

Interested in how to combat the challenges of creative placemaking? Yup, it’s here.

Looking for how to fund your next creative placemaking endeavor? You guessed it!

Need case studies from around the country, anywhere from California to Louisiana to Rhode Island? (See any response above.)

Need I say more?

Download your resource here!

Main photo source: National Arts Strategies