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Indianapolis leaders share strategic action plan for Downtown

Downtown Indianapolis

Downtown Indianapolis. AroundIndy.com staff photo, (c) 2013, all rights reserved.

By Jennifer Hanson
Indianapolis Downtown, Inc.
http://indydt.com/

This week Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., along with city and community leaders, revealed strategies, tactics and priorities for Downtown Indianapolis as a result of a year-long planning effort called Velocity. Downtown stakeholders, business leaders, residents and civic partners gathered for IDI’s annual meeting at the Crowne Plaza Grand Hall at Union Station to discuss the co-created, five-year strategic action plan for Downtown.

For the past year, Indianapolis civic leaders have been working on Velocity, which will serve as a refreshed vision, framework and action plan that is intended to guide future improvements and focus investments in Downtown – especially for the next 18 months to five years.

“Thanks to decades of planning and great leadership, Downtown Indianapolis serves as a model for urban revival across the country,” said Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. “Velocity charts a path forward to ensure that Indy remains a safe, clean and beautiful place for people to live, work, visit and raise a family.”

Sherry Seiwert, president of IDI agrees. “Downtown Indianapolis has fortified its position as Indiana’s center of commerce, government, medicine and education,” said Siewert. “For the past 40 years, Downtown has been planned to be a commuter downtown that efficiently brings people in and out. A key highlight of the Velocity plan is that moving forward, Downtown should also be viewed as a collection of multi-dimensional neighborhoods by adding desirable livability amenities, calming key streets and enhancing sustainability efforts.” 

The Velocity steering committee was led by chair Krista Skidmore, principal at FlashPoint.  Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA), under the direction of Brad Segal, is the consultant hired by IDI to manage the project. Additionally, more than 25 community leaders comprised the Velocity steering committee.

Velocity had six working advisory groups that focused on critical issues and economic sectors that contribute to Downtown’s overall vitality. The process also included forums with residents of neighborhoods adjacent to Downtown, as well a public survey that generated more than 3,000 responses. Public outreach efforts engaged a broad cross-section of Indianapolis’ residents, employers, workers and leaders into the planning process and helping identify challenges, opportunities and priorities. Some of the plan’s tactics include:

Economic Development strategies and highlighted tactics

  • Encourage innovation and foster entrepreneurial businesses and sites.
    • Connect small business with existing education, technology and medical industry anchors.
    • Match pop-up retail (i.e. interim, seasonal uses) and new concept stores with vacant locations
  • Improve, enhance and expand downtown’s core industries (e.g., research, medical, office, tourism, retail, etc.).
    • Develop new marketing tools to better position Downtown for new businesses.
    • Create free Wi-Fi zones within Downtown core.

Housing, Neighborhoods & Livability strategies and highlighted tactics.

  • Drive Downtown as a collection of multi-dimensional work, live and play neighborhoods.
    • Identify sites in residential neighborhoods to create micro-parks, community gardens, play spaces, dog parks, etc.
    • Create a promotional toolkit for recruiters, realtors and Downtown workers about Downtown’s current livability assets (housing, shopping, fitness, education, etc.).
    • Investigate feasibility of an additional public K-8 school in the Downtown core.
  • Strengthen connections to neighborhoods surrounding Downtown.
    • Target and enhance underpasses at key gateways that connect to surrounding neighborhoods (incorporate lighting, murals, etc.).
    • Create a Downtown residents’ association to support the needs of residents and provide loyalty benefits with local businesses.

Downtown Environment & Experience strategies and highlighted tactics

  • Maintain a clean and safe Downtown experience.
    • Drive the passage of a panhandling ordinance and develop/execute communications plan.
    • Institute street-level ambassadors on Georgia Street to improving safe and clean initiatives.
  • Offer and articulate a vibrant experience day and night for residents and visitors.
    • Assess, articulate and activate a refreshed branding campaign that reinforces what’s distinct, compelling, and authentic about the Downtown experience.
    • Create promotional materials for businesses to encourage/facilitate more outdoor dining.
    • Create a campaign to promote local artisans (e.g., PUP seats, local foods, artwork, etc.).

Multi-Modal Transportation Solutions strategies and highlighted tactics

  • Promote and enhance public transit options that better connect Downtown to surrounding neighborhoods.
    • Participate in the rollout of and promote the new electric car share program for Downtown residents, employees and visitors.
    • Investigate a plan to convert key/selected one-way streets to two-ways (focused first on Michigan Street and College Avenue).
    • Continue supporting Indy Connect and the future of transit.
  • Increase awareness and promote all options for getting around Downtown, especially walking and biking.
    • Investigate a plan to convert Vermont Street as primarily a pedestrian and bike corridor (connecting the east and west sides of Downtown).
    • Implement a campaign with local businesses and attractions to share all mobility options (e.g., bike, bus, walking directions).

Public Spaces & Activation strategies and highlighted tactics

  • Utilize new and existing public/green spaces to engage a diverse range of users and stimulate new development.
    • Create fully functioning urban park (University Park) including safe/fenced play area, interactive water features, opportunities for food/beverage, recreational activities (e.g., Bocce, dog park, etc.).
    • Enhance Monument Circle supporting a vibrant café and retail destination.
    • Advocate for installation/maintenance of public restrooms downtown.
  • Collaborate to maintain public spaces and assets within Downtown in beautiful/safe condition. 
    • Assess maintenance/repair needs of public spaces and identify potential financing tools.
    • Create plan to improve Downtown underpasses (repairing concrete, upgrading lighting, general beautification, murals, etc.).

Arts, Culture Sports & Attractions strategies and highlighted tactics

  • Promote stronger co-marketing and collaborations that will cultivate participation in events and experiences.
    • Encourage guerrilla-style street events (i.e. Chalk Fest) that surprise people and utilize public.
    • Partner with universities to create a “Collaboratory” where students will help to address challenges/solutions for Downtown.
    • Create loyalty program that engages residents with event and attraction discounts and activities.
  • Build a stronger network and more collaborative infrastructure to support arts, culture, sports and attractions.
    • Encourage arts/cultural/sports organizations to include new amenities such as outdoor seating, cafes, etc. at or near their facilities.
    • Create a plan and select key sites to encourage participation in pop-up entertainment (e.g., films, music, sports, chalk, magic, etc.).

Since its mission is solely focused on developing, managing and marketing the geographic perimeters of Downtown, IDI will have the majority of the responsibility to enact the plan. Other civic organizations and the City of Indianapolis have agreed to steward various tactics through the execution phases of Velocity, including the Arts Council of Indianapolis, Indiana Sports Corp, Indy Chamber, Indy Hub, IUPUI, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, LISC and Visit Indy. 

Leadership from these organizations and other subject matter experts will serve as an ad-hoc Velocity Implementation Team and meet periodically over the next five years to continue the refinement, development and prioritization exercises required of the plan.  To download a complete version of the plan, go to www.indyvelocity.com

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