by Thomas P. Healy
Successful neighborhoods are the key to a healthy and growing tax base.
Midtown neighborhoods are home to more than 40,000 residents and many of the city’s finest tourist destinations and institutions of culture and learning. Midtown accounts for more than $3 billion in assessed value in Marion County.
Nevertheless, during the past 20 years Midtown has lost nearly 3,000 families, particularly those with school-age children, to the suburbs. This trend has resulted in a steady decline of Midtown’s infrastructure, housing stock, and commercial centers.
Population migration and infrastructure decay are two of the biggest threats to Indianapolis neighborhoods. Midtown leaders seeking a strategic plan for the area decided to take action on their own before their neighborhoods’ decline continued. Given the area’s many strengths, Midtown allies agreed that decline was neither inevitable nor irreversible. However, a change in course would depend on a proactive approach.
Midtown organizations and residents united in a desire to see this vital part of the metropolitan area benefit from proven effective practices in urban land use planning and smart neighborhood economic development. This aspiration prompted the multi-year planning effort that resulted in establishment of the North Midtown Tax Allocation Area (aka Midtown TIF) in March 2013.
Unlike other TIF districts in Indianapolis, the Midtown TIF originated at the neighborhood level and involved a comprehensive development strategy.
Planning processes including Midtown 2010 Plan, Envision Broad Ripple, Envision College Avenue, and the Mid-North Quality of Life Study addressed serious concerns about deteriorating conditions. Each neighborhood identified areas of greatest need that could serve as catalysts for private and public investment.
At the urging of Midtown neighborhood leaders, Department of Metropolitan Development (DMD) planners successfully petitioned the Metropolitan Development Commission to designate an Economic Development Area (EDA) within Midtown. The EDA is defined by a plan that outlines boundaries, establishes the rationale for promoting reinvestment, and outlines the means to accomplish that goal.
The EDA focuses on key investment areas, such as the Monon-College corridor, Central Canal, and Fall Creek. Historic nodes along 38th Street, Illinois Street, and Boulevard Place are included, as are important urban commons like Tarkington Park.
DMD found that more than 40,000 people live within a 10-minute walk of the Midtown EDA. Within that same 10-minute walk more than 4,000 vacant housing units await reinvestment.
The Midtown TIF District was carved out of the EDA to focus attention on crucial areas. Five investment project areas have been identified as priority catalysts for targeted investment in the next 5 to 10 years. In the accompanying graphic the entire EDA is outlined in a dashed line and filled with yellow. The allocation area, i.e. TIF District, appears in orange.
The goals of the strategy are to bring additional employment, residential capacity, and green space to Midtown; to stimulate pride of place; to spur infrastructure upgrades; and to generate increased tax revenues.
Midtown has the demographic foundation and strategic assets to assist Marion County in capturing both employment and population from the surrounding counties. Success will require consistent investment during the TIF district’s 25-year lifespan.
A version of this article originally appeared in the February/March 2014 issue of the magazine.