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

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

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