Strong Indy Fireside Chat: Building Community Through Land Use Policy

Join us for a Fireside Chat with the Indianapolis MPO’s Sean Northup and Indianapolis Department for Metropolitan Development’s Jessica Thorpe on February 19th to talk about the Marion County Land Use Plan, land uses’ importance for community building, and how it will impact neighborhood redevelopment in the future.

This will be an opportunity to learn about the land use policy and zoning process as well as learn the importance of population and job density and integrating land use policy with transportation practices.

Before our speakers come up, we will hold a Strong Indy meetup to discuss future items of business, including the future Board of Directors.

When: February 19th – 6:30 PM

Where: Big Car’s Tube Factory Artspace – 1125 Cruft Street, Indianapolis, IN



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Strong Indy Podcast Episode 6 – Interview with Laura Giffel

Join us as we talk to Laura Giffel, a candidate for Indianapolis City-County Council District 16! In this episode, we discuss neighborhood identity, inclusive redevelopment, zoning, street safety, and economic development initiatives in the City of Indianapolis.

Episode link: https://soundcloud.com/user-59160147/episode-6-laura-giffel-candidate-for-district-16

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Strong Indy Roundup – Week of 1/7/2019

Traffic Violence is starting off early, with a motorist crashing into a hostel in Broad Ripple.

IndyGo is pursuing a new fare collection system that proposes reloadable cards, a mobile app, ticket vending machines, and fare-capping.

More protected bike lanes are planned for downtown, but no specifics are available yet.

Red Line construction is cranking along and you will soon see station structures popping up on Meridian Street. College Avenue construction will begin soon. Go to a public meeting to get your questions answered.

The proposed development for Broad Ripple next to a Red Line station is dead. But given its design, is that such a bad thing?

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Strong Indy Board of Directors Nominations!

Good day, Strong Indianapolitans!

Strong Indy is taking a big leap in how our future is managed. To promote a more diverse, insightful, and organized future, Strong Indy will be pursuing a Board of Directors. Each position will be a two (2) year appointment on a staggered basis, so we don’t have a full turnover every two years. In the inaugural board, some individuals may have to serve for one or three years to meet this requirement.

Strong Indy is looking for a total of five individuals to serve on the Strong Indy Board of Directors. These individuals will be responsible for coordinating with CNU-Midwest for finances, events, and communications. It is not required that one of the board members of Strong Indy sit on the board of CNU-Midwest, but one individual must be the direct liaison to the CNU-Midwest board.

Board members must contribute a currently undetermined dollar amount to Strong Indy to support events, meetings, and speakers. Board members are encouraged to actively participate in their communities and be constantly prepared to engage with issues facing Indianapolis. Board members should be individuals who are knowledgeable of what Strong Towns and the Congress for New Urbanism stand for. Additionally, Strong Indy Board Members must be members of Congress for New Urbanism. This is not a prerequisite, but must be fulfilled if you are selected to serve on the Board.

If you would like to serve on Strong Indy’s Board of Directors, please fill out the form to be considered.

If we receive more than five submissions, a vote will be held during the February 2019 Strong Indy meetup.

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REMINDER: Call to Action

Strong Indy needs your help! The City-County Council’s Public Works Committee elected to remove the entire portion of the proposed downtown-area traffic ordinance that impacted right-on-red. Prohibiting right-on-red is a critical safety component for everyone, not just pedestrians and bicyclists.

We need everyone to SHOW UP to the City-County Council Meeting on January 7th and MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

Get the no-right-on-red proposal back in the ordinance! Come to the meeting and SPEAK UP!

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CNU-Midwest Mini-Summit

Hello, everyone!

The Congress for New Urbanism-Midwest, which Strong Indy is a subchapter of, is hosting a mini-summit on January 12-13th in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

If you’re interested in attending, please let CNU leadership know by contacting them in the link.

This will be a fun event, so come join in and learn!

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Strong Indy needs your help! The City-County Council’s Public Works Committee elected to remove the entire portion of the proposed downtown-area traffic ordinance that impacted right-on-red. Prohibiting right-on-red is a critical safety component for everyone, not just pedestrians and bicyclists.

We need everyone to SHOW UP to the City-County Council Meeting on January 7th and MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

Get the no-right-on-red proposal back in the ordinance! Come to the meeting and SPEAK UP!

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Strong Indy Weekly Roundup – 12/3/2018

  1. A new infill project appears to be cleared for the go ahead at the corner of Vermont & Pennsylvania, formerly the Essex Hotel.
  2. The City-County Council and ParkIndy are exploring adjustments to Downtown Indy’s on-street parking strategy (IndyStar).
  3. Indianapolis has seen a terrifying increase in hit-and-run deaths as motorists kill pedestrians/bicyclists and leave them to die (Fox59).
  4. Groups like Bike Indianapolis are looking to change policy to make Indy’s streets safer for vulnerable users (WISH-TV).
  5. There’s still time to donate to CNU-Midwest and help support organizations like us!
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Strong Indy Weekly Update

Apologies for the delay! Here’s this week’s Strong Indy update:

  1. Strong Indy Pub Night is this Thursday! Join us for informal discussion on urbanism, transportation, and land use at the Mayfair Taproom – 6:30 PM. The Taproom is family-friendly!
  2. Bike Indianapolis is hosting the annual Tweed Ride this Saturday! Get your tickets here.
  3. Six pedestrians were killed in Indianapolis in just three weeks as Indy’s street safety crisis continues.
  4. IndyGo, Marian University, and Indy Reads are hosting “Stories of Indianapolis Transit” to tell the story of how transit connects communities, literally and figuratively. Sign ups for the event is now open.
  5. Urban Design in the Indianapolis Business Journal: There’s too much parking! 
  6. Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors: Metro Indy isn’t building enough townhomes, duplexes, and apartments to meet demand. This is a signal that legalization of transit-oriented development and higher-densities are needed.
  7. Comments are now closed, but you can still review the plans for the Marion County Land Use Plan, Indy Moves, and Pedal Indy (the bike plan update).
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Land Use Part II – Building Places We Love and Place That Love Us Back

In the first installment of this series, we discussed neighborhood identity. However, it is paramount to clarify what this means. What is neighborhood identity and why does it come about? Neighborhood identity is more than just a name. It’s a sense of pride in a neighborhood and a sense of communal responsibility. Indianapolis once had that, but much of it was destroyed with shifts in federal housing and transportation policy, urban renewal, and race-based local land use practices.

Indianapolis – 1941

Indianapolis – 1962

Indianapolis – 1972

Prior to 1972, Indianapolis a numerous, dense communities which fostered strong neighborhood identities. Residents of the communities had immense pride in where they lived, whether they were renters or homeowners. However, which the shifts in policy and white flight, the populations of these neighborhoods were gutted and that sense of identity was lost.

No more is this more apparent than in the neighborhood of Brightwood. Station Street was the neighborhood village’s Main Street. There were shops on the ground floors, housing above, theatres, restaurants, and goods stores to meet the neighborhood’s needs. The primary street was a gathering space for the residents; a place where they could meet their other neighbors, network, support one another, and, at time, celebrate themselves. With the arrival of I-70 in the late 1960s-1970s, a large swath of the population was forcibly displaced and the northern side of the neighborhood was cut off from the southern side. The population shriveled and the neighborhood quickly spiraled into an unstoppable decline. Today, the neighborhood’s residents continue to grapple with the loss of a support network, a lack of a common gathering space, and totally lacking resources within walking distance like the neighborhood once provided. The neighborhood is bordered by overbuilt streets with minimal sidewalks, is chock full of vacant lots and homes, and land use has shifted to favor industrial developments and storage on what was the Main Street.

At Left: Martindale – Brightwood in 1940. At Right – The same location photographed in 2017. 

Another example of this loss is in West Indianapolis. The primary street here was Oliver Street, boarding the General Motors stamping plant. It would be common knowledge to think that the decline of the neighborhood began with the loss of General Motors, but GM did not vacate the space until 1996. The neighborhood’s decline began well before that, with the introduction of I-70 and shifts in aforementioned policy.

Once a separate municipality, West Indianapolis is a neighborhood that sits just across the White River. At its peak, it was home to multiple hotels, two theatres, twelve saloons, apartments, and moderately-dense single-family and duplex housing. In the mid-20th Century, the decline began. All of the former establishments are now gone and the 19th-Century buildings are beyond repair (but some are still standing).

Land use since the loss of these neighborhood centers has been focused on the suburbanization of Indianapolis. Since the 1960s, Indianapolis’s zoning laws have mandated that buildings replacing the older stock have large setbacks and minimum parking requirements; something that none of the older building stock had. Where there has been redevelopment, it has been automobile-oriented in nature; encouraging people to drive to their destinations and forcibly placing resources farther apart from one another, as well as constraining available commercial space for the sake of dedicating more land to parking.

So how can we re-establish our neighborhoods as places where walkable access to resources is paramount and foster places that residents can be proud of? IndyRezone was a good start, but now the City of Indianapolis is working through the process of “changing the land use map” through the Marion County Land Use Plan. The Marion County Land Use Plan is an element of Plan 2020, Indianapolis’s first comprehensive plan to be adopted for the city’s bicentennial. The plan takes the zoning codes implemented as part of IndyRezone to work. The change to the land use map means that the zoning districts that support transit-oriented development, parking reductions, and infill development can actually be applied.

The impacts of these changes certainly wouldn’t be felt overnight. Changing the urban form in a city such as Indianapolis will take years, perhaps decades. However, the results will be neighborhoods that can be loved and love us back. These will be neighborhoods that can be access by foot, public transit, bike, or, dare I say it, scooter. Creating a city of neighborhoods starts with policy; policy that orients the places we need and places we want to the scale of the human foot and publicly accessible transportation services.

Then, and only then, can we begin to regain what we lost. However, we must do so in a manner that is equitable; a manner that is accessible to everyone.

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