by Keelee Slack
Three neighborhoods that are currently part of the Great Places 2020 initiative have new names and new plans: Maple Crossing (38th and Illinois streets), Englewood Village (East Washington and Oxford streets), and River West (West Michigan Street and King Avenue). These areas have always been important neighborhoods in Indianapolis but the new monikers serve to cultivate a sense of identifiable community for residents and business owners alike.
Scattered across the city, these locations are the three frontrunners in a total of six Great Places to be identified in Indianapolis. The potential impact of these areas is also great.
“When these spaces work well they serve as the stage for our public lives,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said in his keynote address at the kickoff event held at James Whitcomb Riley School on May 10th. “By organizing investments according to Livability, Opportunity, Vitality and Education . . . we will meaningfully elevate the people, the institutions, and the spaces at the heart of these great places.”
Love Thy Neighborhood
Livability, Opportunity, Vitality, and Education, known as L.O.V.E. goals, are the framework on which the Great Places neighborhood strategy has been created. By focusing on these four key elements, residents and community partners are able to create concise roadmaps of what they want to see in their neighborhoods.
Take Maple Crossing, for example. Over the course of the past year the Midtown neighborhood’s stakeholders, community members, nonprofits, and faith leaders have collaborated to create the following goals for their community:
- Encourage walking, bicycling, and transit use while discouraging excessive driving speeds
- Turn Tarkington Park into a destination urban park
- Improve health and safety
- Increase local employment and provide direct access to other job centers
- Develop a mixed-use commercial center around Tarkington Park
- Create a place-based strategy for the retention and attraction of businesses both large and small
- Reduce housing blight and abandonment
- Improve existing owner-occupied and rental housing stock
- Increase interest in new home ownership at all income levels
- Create a large-scale, market-building redevelopment initiative south of 38th Street
- Transform IPS School 43 into a high-quality neighborhood school for families within Maple Crossing
- Increase the array and quality of early childhood resources
- Increase educational support services through the Mid-North Promise Program
- Develop targeted strategies for workforce development and entrepreneurship for adult residents
Maple Crossing is already making progress in all of these identified targets and stepping into its role as a “connector of commerce and community,” said Michael McKillip, executive director of Midtown Indianapolis Inc.
One of the most notable achievements to date is the work being done at Tarkington Park. Nearly $6 million has already been invested in the park, with those funds going toward projects including a destination playground, splash plaza, and on-site café that will serve the neighborhood. Phase I development is currently scheduled to be nearly complete in December.
But simply building infrastructure into the park isn’t enough to get residents to visit. Crossing 38th Street or Meridian Street in order to access the park is a dangerous endeavor today due to high traffic. In order to make it easier for neighbors to visit the park safely, the community requested that crosswalks, speed tables, and bike boulevards be added over time to slow traffic and enhance connectivity. “For the first time, people will be prioritized over cars on 38th Street,” McKillip said in his remarks at the event.
The beauty of the L.O.V.E. framework is how the initiatives layer together to make a stronger impact overall. Tarkington Park’s café not only helps make the green space an urban destination but also supports the Opportunities goal of incentivizing local hiring and pulling in new small businesses while retaining existing ones. In turn, a strong economic foundation draws the interest of potential homeowners wanting to live in an area where they can walk to a restaurant for dinner, shop at a local store, and visit an amazing public park. Work under way at James Whitcomb Riley School 43 will help it evolve into a strong neighborhood school to better serve area families and preserve the diversity in lifestyle and culture that makes Maple Crossing so important as a bridge between downtown and the north side.
A Collective Impact
While these initiatives might seem daunting, there are some major power players invested in Indy’s Great Places and they didn’t come to the table empty-handed. A funding commitment of $84 million was announced at the Great Places 2020 event, with $50 million of that total being contributed by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). LISC, the backbone supporter of the Great Places 2020 initiative, is joined by other major partners including the City of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership, Indy Chamber, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, and United Way.
LISC’s investment will be distributed in a variety of ways, according to Bill Taft, executive director at LISC. “We have a wide range of projects,” Taft said after the event, citing grants, loans, equity investments, and tax credits as methods of deploying the funds.
Those who attended the unveiling were given a hands-on introduction to just what those invested dollars can do for the three Great Places neighborhoods. The Design Bank provided a 3D printed model of each focus area, allowing guests to examine the neighborhoods from every angle. Attendees were also treated to virtual tours that complemented the 3D models, walking them through the focus areas street by street and showcasing the proposed investments in infrastructure, housing, greenspace, and new developments.
Neighbors were excited to see the future of their communities come to life through the visual aids. “Maple Crossing’s transformation is well under way and early efforts are a clear indication that the decades of division, disinvestment, and neglect are nearing their end. An era of neighborhood pride, ownership, collaboration, and engagement are taking shape and leading to unprecedented investment,” McKillip said.
Community members who missed the May 10th event still have plenty of opportunity to get involved in their Great Place and work with sponsors such as the Buckingham Foundation, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Lilly Endowment, Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors, Reconnecting to Our Waterways, and many other organizations invested in the project.
“Indianapolis is known for volunteerism that fuels many large-scale events, and known as possessing a strong public-private partnership that can and will bring about fundamental change,” Mayor Hogsett said at the event. “I am convinced that our best days in this great city are yet to come.”
Keelee Slack is program and events coordinator for Midtown Indianapolis Inc. Follow her on Twitter @Midtownindy
Each L.O.V.E. committee meets regularly to discuss ways of implementing the Great Places 2020 Plan. The committees welcome new participants.
- Livability: quarterly meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, at North United Methodist Church. Contact Leigh Riley Evans: Send Email
- Opportunity: quarterly meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1 at MLK Center. Contact Michael McKillip: Send Email
- Vitality: every other month at 3:30 p.m. Next meeting: Wednesday, Oct. 26 at Near North Development Corp. Contact Michael Osborne: Send Email
- Education: monthly at 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Oct. 24, and Nov. 21 at MLK Center. Contact Anthony Bridgeman: Send Email