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

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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

Knight Cities Challenge 2016

Funding Opportunities, News and Upcoming Events

What’s Your Best Idea to Make Gary and Fort Wayne More Successful?

This past year, the Delta Institute was awarded $385,000 from the Knight Foundation’s Cities Challenge to establish a facility in Gary, IN that would deconstruct and reclaim building materials from vacant homes that were past the point of no return.

In partnership with the City of Gary, the Steel City Salvage pilot program aims to keep reusable material out of city landfills, redirect those materials for use in projects in and around Gary, and create local jobs in the process.

Once again, the Knight Foundation’s Cities Challenge is seeking applications from across the nation that will help make their 26 cities more vibrant places to live and work. Knight will award grants from a pool of $5 million for innovative and effective ideas that focus on talent attraction/retention, economic opportunity development, and community engagement.

While ideas can come from anyone, located anywhere, they must benefit one or more of the aforementioned 26 Knight communities. In Indiana, these would be either Gary or Fort Wayne.

The application process is currently underway and concludes at noon ET on Thursday, November 3, 2016. Don’t worry if your idea isn’t presentation ready.  The initial application asks just three primary questions about your idea that should be answered in 100 words or less.

For more information and how to apply, please visit knightcities.org.