Big Plans Ahead for Two Midtown Parks

by Thomas P. Healy

Expect 2018 to be a transitional year for two of Midtown’s most popular public spaces: Tarkington Park, 45 West 40th St., and Broad Ripple Park, 1550 Broad Ripple Ave.


At a January public meeting, Indy Parks director Linda Broadfoot announced that construction of the new performance shelter and two new basketball courts at Tarkington Park will commence this spring.

She also noted that a request for proposals (RFP) has been issued to solicit a qualified partner to manage programming and operations of the park, including the café. (PDF)

A study commissioned in 2017 by Midtown Indy and the Indianapolis Parks Foundation produced a lengthy list of activities people want for the park. New York City–based Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV) prepared a business plan for park operations and programming after a series of public input sessions and discussions with Indy Parks staff, Broadfoot said.

BRV prepared the following estimates of costs to run the park based on an ever-increasing level of services and funding:

  • 2018 estimated cost: $401,000
  • 2019 estimated cost: $508,000
  • Thereafter: $731,000/year

Broadfoot noted that Indy Parks currently spends between $180,000 and $185,000 annually on Tarkington Park.

“We want to find a dedicated source of funds to be able to implement the plan and ensure the park’s long-term success,” Broadfoot said. The RFP will seek a collaborative community partnership to generate funds in the park that return to the park. “There will be no entry fee to the park ever,” Broadfoot said, adding that users could still bring their own food into the park.

She stressed that the City of Indianapolis would retain ownership of the park. Indy Parks insists that the operations manager establish a community advisory committee to insure neighborhood oversight. The manager would be responsible for maintenance and programming and for generating funds to cover the costs. Regular status updates for Indy Parks are also required.

Indy Parks should select a partner by May to begin work immediately for the coming season. “We push an aggressive time frame,” Broadfoot said.


A new master plan is under way for Broad Ripple Park. Indy Parks has contracted with Context Design, a Fortville–based landscape architect studio, to undertake the effort.

According to Joe Mayes, a senior associate at Context, the scope of the project is to update the park’s 1981 master plan. “We’re looking to create a vision for the next 10 to 20 years of Broad Ripple Park,” he said. Mayes noted that when Indy Parks completed its 2016 master plan for the entire parks and greenways system, the community identified the 62-acre Broad Ripple Park as a signature park for the system.

Engaging Solutions is Context’s communications partner on the project. According to project manager Gwendolyn Simmons, the planning process will include a steering committee, stakeholder interviews, and several public open houses and pop-up events in various Broad Ripple neighborhood venues.

She said a series of open houses are scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays March 7, April 4, May 2, and May 23 at Broad Ripple High School, 1115 Broad Ripple Ave.

A project website contains details about the planning process as well as the complete master plan.

During the four-year-long Envision Broad Ripple (EBR) process, community participants identified Broad Ripple Park as one of the community’s key assets and an essential part of the village character.

Several recommendations for the park were included in the adopted plan:

  • Construct a riverside pedestrian and bicycle walkway connector between the Monon Trail, Broad Ripple Village, and Broad Ripple Park.
  • Encourage vehicle parking at Broad Ripple Park and walking to the village.
  • Create well-designed recycling opportunities throughout Broad Ripple, including at Broad Ripple Park.
  • Provide a location for community gardens in Broad Ripple Park.

At the January Indy Parks board meeting in Broad Ripple Park, deputy director Don Colvin discussed the master planning project. “We hope by the end of July to start wrapping things up and get parks board approval, then on to the Metropolitan Development Commission (MDC) for final approval,” he said. If approved by the MDC, the plan will join EBR as part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan and serve as a guiding document for changes and upgrades in the village.


Colvin said “very large ideas” are frequently part of master plans. “It doesn’t mean we have to have the immediate budget for these plans,” he said. “Once we understand where the community wants to go, and what’s important to them, then the team over the years finds creative ways of finding financing,” he said. Colvin described such financing as a “funding quilt” stitched together from federal grants, private partnerships, foundation funds, or the Indy Parks capital program.

Jeff Bennett, deputy mayor for community development, picked up on Colvin’s “funding quilt” concept during his January presentation to the parks board.

“Resources for Indy Parks are scarce,” he acknowledged, but added that the Hogsett administration is trying to address how to properly fund parks. “That comes with some challenges—to bring resources to fill needs across the system while we maintain parks’ identity and fulfill parks’ mission,” Bennett said.

One idea under consideration is learning from other collaborations in the city, such as CityWay, a mixed-use development that includes a YMCA built-in partnership with Franciscan Health.

“Given that healthy living and social engagement are core components of Indy Parks’ mission, we think there might be a way to learn lessons from the ‘Y’ and apply them to the needs of Indy Parks,” Bennett said.

Bennett suggested that in the coming weeks the administration would request information from the healthcare provider community about how such partnerships might be structured. “We’d like to go through a formal process in a way that’s sensitive to the history of our system, but we want to do it in a way that begins to address the needs of our system.”

A version of this article appeared in the February/March 2018 print edition of the magazine and has been updated to reflect the project website’s status.