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

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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

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

 

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 

PLACEMAKING RESOURCES: BACK TO BASICS

Interesting Read, Placemaking Resources, What We're Reading

Creative Placemaking: All You Have Ever Wanted to Know

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“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 

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 

 

 

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! 

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.