By Ted J. Feeney
In 2013, eight Midtown organizations formed a working group to develop a plan for neighborhood collaboration. Butler University, Christian Theological Seminary, Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis Museum of Art, International School of Indiana, Midtown Indianapolis Inc., Citizen’s Energy Group and the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association spent two years crafting a framework plan. All partners have aligned as the Midtown Anchor Coalition (MAC) to enhance their relationship with the surrounding neighborhoods and demonstrate the power and impact of partnerships.
Anchor institutions are local, place-based organizations that serve communities and the local economy. Local economic development is successful near anchor institutions because these organizations are rooted in the community.
The MAC features a diverse group of key institutions: a university, a seminary, a historic cemetery, an art museum, an International Baccalaureate school, a utility company and two nonprofit organizations. MAC members employ more than 2,000 people, own 1,100 acres of land, have 3 million square feet of facilities, attract 1.1 million visitors annually, and spend in excess of $117 million on goods and services each year.
“These organizations will support both each other and the community as a whole,” says Michael McKillip, executive director of Midtown Indianapolis Inc. He notes that the MAC focus on existing Midtown institutions echoes a “Live, Buy and Hire” strategy adopted by the City of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.
McKillip described the MAC focus area as the Great Places 2020 Maple Crossing quarter-mile impact zone as well as the southern portion of the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood. This geography directly touches Butler University, Crown Hill Cemetery and Christian Theological Seminary properties. The Butler-Tarkington neighborhood, as well as the northern part of the Crown Hill and Mapleton Fall Creek neighborhoods will directly benefit from the efforts of the MAC. Clark Kirkman, president of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association, says he is happy to be working with all of these anchor institutions for a common purpose. “I foresee exciting things happening in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood as the MAC plan progresses.”
Entities across Indianapolis, including the City of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP) have acknowledged the many initiatives under way to help neighborhoods in Midtown’s urban core. Butler-Tarkington’s Kirkman agrees, “Between the MAC and momentum created by the Great Places 2020 over the last three years, we are seeing important resources poured into the areas that need them most.”
After two years of extensive stakeholder meetings, master plan reviews, community development strategies and other analysis by anchor institutions, the MAC plan established six distinct themes to use in moving forward:
- Safety and Security
- Attraction and Identity
- Housing and Neighborhoods
- Connectivity and Infrastructure
- Ongoing Collaboration and Engagement.
One successful catalyst project used by anchor coalitions in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit is to make affordable housing available to anchor institution employees. This allows employees to live close to their workplace and drive local economic development. The MAC is working with the INHP to collectively apply for available grants to help employees and neighbors purchase and revitalize homes in the focus area. With a large inventory of rental properties and hundreds of vacant and/or abandoned homes, there is an opportunity to promote both homeownership and investment in the local community.
Connectivity and infrastructure catalyst projects are also underway. Potential improvements on Michigan Road, Clarendon Road, 42nd Street, and secondary nodes in the target area are being studied for projects that will help pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Also in the planning stage is gigabit internet, which uses fiber-optics for symmetrical broadband speeds up to 1 Gpbs, much faster than the access speeds most residential and small business users have now.
One of the initial framework report’s critical findings urged the group of anchor organizations to continue to partner as the MAC. To leverage both current efforts and potential new opportunities, Midtown Indianapolis Inc. was selected as the central convener to move catalyst projects forward. Says Midtown’s McKillip, “We have seen the success of the Midtown concept from its evolution over the last decade. By taking on the convener role, we’re stepping up to lead these institutions toward the fulfillment of the anchor coalition strategy for institutional advancement and the betterment of the quality of life in the neighborhood.”
Down the road, the coalition will not be limited to the anchors listed here. Additional Midtown institutions, such as The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Ivy Tech will be solicited as partners, too.
Ted J. Feeney, a Butler-Tarkington resident since 2008, is a board member and past president of the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association. He is a participating member of the Midtown Anchor Coalition. View the Midtown Anchor Coalition’s Plan here.
This comprehensive series of goals is complemented by specific imple- mentation strategies that partners have agreed to champion.
- Address the real and perceived incidences of crime in the area through public, private, and community partnerships.
- Offer Midtown residents the most PreK–16 and adult learning options for excellent private, public, and parochial education in the region.
- Improve quality of life for existing Midtown residents while increasing the length of stay and number of people coming here to live, work, learn, and visit.
- Enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Midtown anchors in fulfillment of their mission through a shared value strategy that leverages exper- tise, staff, and facilities.
- Increase the number of anchor institution employees living closer to their work as a catalyst for new demand and investment.
- Offer residents, employees, students, visitors, and patrons the most transportation and communication options of any area in the region.