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

Do you want to be in love?

City Planning, Placemaking Globally, Tactical Urbanism, What We're Watching

“Emotions are contagious; when more people say they love their cities, more people will feel it and believe it”- Peter Kageyama

 

Most people in their careers operate within the measurable world. We measure participation at events, the amount of money something costs, how many jobs something creates, and a wide variety of other things to determine the success of projects, programs, or initiatives. These things are all great—the more participation we can get at public events, the more bang we can get for our buck or an increase in employment—are all valid and extremely important benchmarks to strive for. But we all know this is not enough.

The statistics about a place are not what makes the city, what truly makes the city, and we probably all know this from first-hand experience. We have all heard negative things said about our city and thought “that doesn’t really represent where I am from”. What is not said enough are the positive things about our cities, the things that the residents know firsthand from living there and what makes it home to them. The difficult part for people in design and community engagement professions is getting residents to share the immeasurable things about their community: how it makes them feel, what makes it their home instead of just another city, and learning how to interpret and market these intangibles to both the residents and other communities, if they can even be marketed. Moving feelings and ideas into tangible expressions of affection for a city is something that can take a considerable amount of thought, effort, community participation, and determination.

Peter Kageyama, an expert in community development and grassroots engagement and the author of several books including For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places and Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places, offered his thoughts on the subject at a ULI lecture series in October of 2016.

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Peter Kageyama has authored two books about loving your city and is an internationally acclaimed consultant on community development. Source.

His main idea is how to get people to fall in love with their cities, and how this then translates into reinvestment and urban revitalization. The concept is very simple: everyone loves on different levels and, at some level, probably loves the place they live in for one reason or another. Expressing this to the rest of the community in a tangible way and in a way that the city as a whole can get on board with is another story altogether. Kageyama discusses it in terms of potholes: every city has potholes: most residents can identify those potholes and want them fixed. It is much more difficult for residents to ask the city for intangibles such as beauty, art, and great design in a city, but we know that is a desire most residents want fulfilled, probably more desperately than they want the potholes filled. How do we, as designers, neighborhood advocates, and citizens, help people to love their city more and to make it a more fun place for people to be in?

 

We want to create “cities that grab us by the heart and refuse to let us go”- Peter Kageyama

 

Kageyama, in his short twenty minute presentation, cites example after example of things which cities have done, big and small, to give their residents “love notes”. These love notes are often, though not always, small, but they always have a larger-than-anticipated impact on the people who get to experience them. From Cloud Gate and Crown Fountain in Chicago, to the Big Blue Bear in Denver, to Rainworks in Seattle, to bronze mice hidden around downtown Greenville, South Carolina, many cities are catching onto ways to love their city and pass on love notes to their residents and visitors.

Kageyama encourages those in both top-down positions like the local government and bottom-up positions like grassroots organizations to look for out-of-the-box solutions which can give their city a little love. People working from the bottom-up are especially important because they are the ones of the ground floor of the community. They often see issues and have simple yet creative ways of solving them that city officials and heads of large organizations do not. But these same people are the ones who usually think “city-making is beyond them”; since they are not in a profession which deals with city development their opinions are not valid. Kageyama is quick to include and encourage these people to get involved—often the most spectacular placemaking efforts come from people who are not in the profession.

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Community members from diverse backgrounds are absolutely essential in the process of “city-making” as they are ones who will be using the city which we make! Source. 

He also encourages the people who want to make these kinds of changes in their community to look for “garden hose solutions” or solutions which do the job without being over the top or costing an excessive amount of money. While there may be objections to spending money on things which have a cost but do not have a measurable value when there are still potholes to be fixed, Kageyama says:

 

“Technically, you could always fix more potholes, but the placemaking effects have values beyond the purely financial”- Peter Kageyama

 

If we wait until everything in our cities is 100% functional and safe before moving on to the fun and creative investments in cities, the fun things will never get done. There will always be potholes, but there will also always be people who want to fall more in love with their city. Fixing potholes has a known and finite benefit; focusing on the things which get people to fall more in love with their community are the ones which will have exponential and generational benefits. A balance of the two will be essential to the emotional health of the people in the city and, subsequently, the health of the city.

The whole idea of Placemaking Indiana is to “love where you live” and to continually fall in love with the place you live. To do this, it must be a collaborative and ongoing process which engages the whole community and is continually looking for and pursuing new ways to express our love for our city and state. Check out the efforts we have been making in this direction, including My Community, My Vision, Stellar Communities, and CreatINg Places here. Wherever you live, don’t forget to love your city today!

Check out this link for Kageyama’s talk with ULI!

Main Image Source: The Making Table

Big Blue Bear: Denver Post

Mice on Main: Greenville Daily Photo

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! 

What We’re Reading: The Importance of Placemaking and Unlocking Community Capital

Funding Opportunities, What We're Reading

“In Europe and North America, millions of citizens are moving back to cities and denser urban areas. These interconnected networks have served as hubs of innovation for centuries, providing our societies with the best opportunities to succeed, leading to the creation of the world’s most innovative products, companies, and people. With the rapid growth and production of the automobile in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some people fled the rapid industrializing cities for rural life.” – Jonathan Berk

Read more from our friends at Massachusetts’ Commonwealth Places here!

 

Crowdgranting: Letting the Public Choose

Funding Opportunities, News and Upcoming Events

Joint Effort Between the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and Patronicity Allows Hoosiers to Help Select and Fund Placemaking Projects in Their Communities

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Are you interested in creating vibrant places in your community? If you are, please let me introduce you to Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s (IHCDA) new funding program, CreatINg Places.