INDIANAPOLIS — When former Mayor Bill Hudnut set out to remake Indianapolis as the “Amateur Sports Capitol of the World” more than 40 years ago, he sought to distance the city from its “India-no-place” reputation as just a high spot in a cornfield with a big auto race once a year.
When Hudnut’s successor, Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, greenlit Circle Centre, it sparked a downtown revitalization that led to the construction of a basketball fieldhouse, a new football stadium, a new baseball field, multiple convention center expansions and a skyline dotted with new hotels.
The City has determined that its time to update those 20th Century visions and commitments. It now wants to poise Indianapolis for growth by rethinking its municipal image and personality going forward.
The Department of Metropolitan Development has opened a process for consultants to lead communitywide conversations on the future development of Indianapolis while focusing on the neighborhoods that make up the City’s culture.
“From us being the Amateur Sports Capitol of the World, we have now adjusted to talking about what Indianapolis is when it grows up,” Lourenzo Giple, DMD deputy director of Planning, Preservation and Urban Design, said. “Indianapolis is made up of a whole lot of parts. How do we look at those parts and say, ‘How does it add up to the whole of what Indianapolis is?’.”
DMD said it expects the listening forums and process to spend 18 months discovering the cultural soul of the city.
“How do we identify and pinpoint the smaller pieces of things that we do well and have done well over the years?” Giple said he imagines the community will ask itself. “We have all of these pieces so as a city its saying, ‘Lets help it grow a little bit more and highlight it’.”
The Cultural Equity Plan will focus on neighborhood diversity, while the Regional Center Design Guidelines will examine the future of downtown and the contiguous Mile Square as well as a swath of the Near Northside.
“COVID has taught us a variety of things,” said Giple, reflecting on the business and visitor changes brought to the city’s core. “We need more people living downtown.”
DMD is currently hearing from developers on ideas to bring more residential units to the properties of the City Market, the City County Building and the Market East District while redeveloping the Market and the former City Hall.
A third consultant team is being sought to help update the Marion County Land Use Plan.
In the Norwood community, east of the recently opened Community Justice Center in Twin Aire, Brenda McAtee said neighbors have been inundated with proposals to buy their homes.
“We’re getting mega cards coming in, people calling,” she said. “Everybody was really upset that, ‘We’re getting ready to get pushed out,’ but I’m like, ‘No, we’re not gonna get pushed out’.”
McAtee said her neighbors fear the gentrification that has resulted in half-million dollar homes being built in the 16 Monon area or box-style homes going up next to traditional smaller houses in Fountain Square.
“If you come in and build a $200,000 or $300,000 home, with the homes here, it just wouldn’t fly,” McAtee said. “That’s not what we want in this neighborhood. We want each area home to fall right in with the new area homes that are being built, we don’t want our houses to stick out like a sore thumb and then we got new homes built in here because it would be a cookie cutter.”
Giple said as the city reimagines its image inclusive of individual neighborhood personalities, newcomers will need to be mindful of the community cultures they’re entering while longtime residents will have to be open to change.
“There needs to be a give and take. There needs to be some new blood coming in, but we ask specifically that the new blood that’s coming in respect what was there,” he said. “We have to understand that we have to retain the culture of a community as it is.”
The window for consultant contractors to submit their qualifications to bid on the DMD contracts is open for another month.